YouTube comments on Bill Gates videos dominated by Covid-19 CONSPIRACIES as misinformation spread

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Conspiracy theories about Covid-19 thrived in the comments on YouTube videos featuring Bill Gates despite the Google-owned platform’s policies against misinformation.

A new study examined a dataset of 38,564 YouTube comments that were drawn from three videos – all of which featured Gates and related to Covid-19 – that were posted by Fox News, Vox and China Global Television Network. 

Comments on the videos covered a range of topics, including the philanthropist’s role in vaccine development and distribution, his connection to convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, 5G networks and concepts around Gates being able to control people through human microchipping. 

The researchers used topic modelling and qualitative content analysis to determine that comments for each video were ‘heavily’ dominated by conspiratorial statements. 

Conspiracy theories thrived in the comments on YouTube videos featuring Bill Gates (above) despite the Google-owned platform's policies against misinformation

Conspiracy theories thrived in the comments on YouTube videos featuring Bill Gates (above) despite the Google-owned platform’s policies against misinformation

The new study examined a dataset of 38,564 YouTube comments that were drawn from three videos - all of which featured Gates and related to Covid-19 - that were posted by Fox News, Vox and China Global Television Network

The new study examined a dataset of 38,564 YouTube comments that were drawn from three videos – all of which featured Gates and related to Covid-19 – that were posted by Fox News, Vox and China Global Television Network

Gates, who co-founded Microsoft and remains a controversial figure, predicted a killer virus would originate in China and spread globally. In a 2019 Netflix documentary, the mogul noted that the world was ill-prepared to deal with such viral spread: 

‘If you think of anything that could come along that would kill millions of people, a pandemic is our greatest risk,’ he said.

Although numerous social networks, including Reddit and Facebook, have been found to host conspiracy theories, those platforms have a level of community-led content moderation that YouTube lacks. About 720,000 hours of video are uploaded every single day to YouTube. 

The peer-reviewed study found that conspiratorial comments could be slotted into three high-level categories: strengthening a conspiracy theory, discrediting an authority and defending a conspiracy theory.  

Comments on the videos covered a range of topics, including the philanthropist's role in vaccine development and distribution, his connection to convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, 5G networks and concepts around Gates being able to control people through human microchipping

Comments on the videos covered a range of topics, including the philanthropist’s role in vaccine development and distribution, his connection to convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, 5G networks and concepts around Gates being able to control people through human microchipping

Although numerous social networks, including Reddit and Facebook, have been found to host conspiracy theories, those platforms have a level of community-led content moderation that YouTube lacks. About 720,000 hours of video are uploaded every single day to YouTube

Although numerous social networks, including Reddit and Facebook, have been found to host conspiracy theories, those platforms have a level of community-led content moderation that YouTube lacks. About 720,000 hours of video are uploaded every single day to YouTube

‘YouTube’s comments feature may have played an underrated role in participatory cultures of conspiracy theory knowledge production and circulation,’ the researchers state. 

‘The platform should consider design and policy changes that respond to discursive strategies used by conspiracy theorists to prevent similar outcomes for future high-stakes public interest matters.’

A certain amount of comments were considered borderline content, which YouTube defines as content that ‘brushes up against’ but does not cross the lines set by its rules. 

An example of borderline content would include comments that raise doubts about Gates’ motives in vaccine development and distribution and the suggestion that he seeks to take control in a ‘new world order.’ 

These comments implied or linked to theories about using vaccines to control or track large numbers of people, according to the study that was published today in Harvard Kennedy School’s Misinformation Review. 

The number of likes or replies to comments was used by researchers to figure out public engagement with the ideas in the comments. Those with higher engagement were shorter in length and more general in their assertions – such as those expressing a general distrust of Gates or pointing to his body language. 

The California-based firm prohibited users from uploading content that pushed medical misinformation and banned videos that were deemed anti-vaccine. The tech giant said in September 2021 that it had taken down over 130,000 videos for violating its Covid-19 vaccine policies

The California-based firm prohibited users from uploading content that pushed medical misinformation and banned videos that were deemed anti-vaccine. The tech giant said in September 2021 that it had taken down over 130,000 videos for violating its Covid-19 vaccine policies

'A major implication of our study is that YouTube needs much more effort to redesign the space to provide social moderation infrastructure,' researchers, who are affiliated with the University of Sydney and Queensland University of Technology in Australia, note

‘A major implication of our study is that YouTube needs much more effort to redesign the space to provide social moderation infrastructure,’ researchers, who are affiliated with the University of Sydney and Queensland University of Technology in Australia, note

The California-based firm prohibited users from uploading content that pushed medical misinformation and banned videos that were deemed anti-vaccine. The tech giant said in September 2021 that it had taken down over 130,000 videos for violating its Covid-19 vaccine policies. 

However, critics claimed at the time that the platform was engaging in a form of censorship that ultimately suppressed legitimate concerns about the vaccine and its negative health effects.  

‘A major implication of our study is that YouTube needs much more effort to redesign the space to provide social moderation infrastructure,’ researchers, who are affiliated with the University of Sydney and Queensland University of Technology in Australia, note.

When the data was extracted, there were between 13,000 and 14,500 comments posted between April 2020 and March 2021.

Last year, Gates said he was taken aback by sheer volume of ‘crazy’ and ‘evil’ conspiracy theories regarding himself and Dr. Anthony Fauci. 

‘Nobody would have predicted that I and Dr. Fauci would be so prominent in these really evil theories,’ Gates told Reuters.

‘I’m very surprised by that. I hope it goes away.’

Melinda Gates, now his ex-wife, said at the time: ‘Disinformation causes more death. It causes people not to do the right things. It’s time to have more government regulation over the social platforms, so we don’t get these conspiracy theories that cause more death.’

According to the CDC, there have been at least 96.2 million cases of Covid and 1,054,443 deaths as of Tuesday evening. The country is averaging over 42,000 new cases per day, a number that’s likely an undercount, and 35% of people over age 5 have received their first booster dose. 

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