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YouTube's chief product officer on fighting misinformation during a pandemic

"Our focus right now is making sure that YouTube is doing its part to help people deal with this challenge."

Neal Mohan and Protocol's David Pierce

"We've removed on the order of thousands of videos since the beginning of this crisis," YouTube CPO Neal Mohan said.

Screenshot from the Virtual Meetup

YouTube has served up around 14 billion text-based information panels with links to the CDC and WHO in recent weeks in an effort to get reliable coronavirus information to its users, YouTube Chief Product Officer Neal Mohan said during Protocol's Virtual Meetup on Thursday.

"Our goal is to raise up authoritative voices," Mohan said.

In addition to these outbound links, YouTube has also been aiming to put a bigger emphasis on surfacing videos from health officials on its service. "When we recommend videos, we want to make sure that they're coming from authoritative sources," Mohan said, explaining that it had been working with doctors and medical professionals to fine-tune these recommendations.

At the same time, YouTube has been trying to squash misinformation. The service has established an internal intelligence desk to identify misinformation threats, and is now issuing two to three internal updates a week on the types of content it is banning to account for emerging conspiracy theories, like the false claim that 5G caused COVID-19. "We've removed on the order of thousands of videos since the beginning of this crisis," Mohan said.

Even YouTube's original content efforts are all about COVID-19 these days. Asked whether YouTube was looking to fund any high-profile entertainment projects anytime soon, Mohan demurred, saying that the video service was instead focusing on getting YouTubers in touch with health professionals like Dr. Anthony Fauci. "Our focus right now is making sure that YouTube is doing its part to help people deal with this challenge," he said.

Part of this has also been educational content. YouTube has also seen a lot of kids and their parents flock to the service for such content; Mohan said that home-schooling-related searches have doubled since the beginning of March.

At the same time, YouTube has seen a lot of traction for entertaining live streams during these times, including a recent Andrea Bocelli live concert. "We all are looking for means to connect, for inspiration, for hope," Mohan said.

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