This year, a worrisome trend in local disinformation from YouTube channels became more prominent. It takes only one YouTube video uploaded across social media channels to be a super-spreader of misinformation.
From Jan. 1 to Dec. 10, nearly a third (89) of the 336 articles about online disinformation published by VERA Files Fact Check concerned YouTube videos.
This is the largest number of YouTube disinformation items VERA Files has fact-checked in recent years. It’s more than double (44) the posts of the same type that we debunked in 2020, an increase of about 110% (8) from 2019, and an almost 180% rise (5) from 2018.
Many of these items were reposted on other social media platforms, further amplifying the reach of each falsehood.
In June, the YouTube channel BANAT NEWS TV published a bogus “breaking news” report claiming that Commission on Elections (Comelec) Spokesperson James Jimenez would be sacked. (Read: VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Comelec spox is NOT being removed)
Jimenez himself debunked the claim and invited the public to report the post as False Information on the platform. But catching up with the lie was challenging; the video’s reach was extensive. Apart from the original publisher, at least eight Facebook (FB) pages, a website and another YouTube channel reuploaded the video carrying the same false claim.
Some of the FB pages published their copies of the video within a minute of each other’s posting, suggesting automation in its publication. The same manner of amplification was noted for YouTube disinformation concerning many other issues.
From the 91 YouTube videos VERA Files fact-checked this year, here are the trends that emerged:
1. More than half of the falsehoods came from two YouTube channels.
The former joined YouTube on Dec. 26, 2015 and has amassed nearly 40 million views.
The latter, a verified YouTube channel created on Nov. 9, 2017, has collected almost 247 million views and has been flagged by VERA Files since 2020 for repeatedly publishing disinformation.
When an account on YouTube has a verified badge, this means it is the “official channel of a creator, artist, company, or public figure,” according to the platform’s Help center. But YouTube may revoke the verification or terminate a channel if it violated community guidelines, which include the publishing of deceptive and misleading content.
2. The most popular topic is the 2022 elections.
It comes as no surprise that the elections became the most common topic of disinformation on YouTube this year, accounting for 33 of the 91 videos.
The infighting between the two factions of President Rodrigo Duterte’s party, the Partido Demokratiko ng Pilipinas – Lakas ng Bayan, triggered the most disinformation. All seven videos on this topic attacked Sen. Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao, who leads the breakaway group.
There were also five false announcements of a “confirmed” tandem between former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, months before they even made their partnership official. One also claimed a tandem between Marcos and President Duterte.
A recent trend of election-related disinformation has been pushing the false narrative that the petitions filed against Marcos’ candidacy have been junked.
The Comelec was not spared by promoters of false claims. Apart from the attack against Jimenez, fake reports surfaced that officials of the poll body would be “reshuffled.” Marcos also published a video riddled with falsehoods, attacking the credibility of the automated elections system.
Other popular topics included COVID-19 (9), fake announcements about social aid programs (6), the Aquinos and the false claim that the Ninoy Aquino International Airport would be renamed (6), and the West Philippine Sea (5).
3. The Dutertes and Bongbong Marcos (again) are the biggest beneficiaries of YouTube disinformation.
President Duterte and Marcos topped the list of public figures who reaped the most benefits from disinformation on YouTube this year. VERA Files Fact Check observed the same pattern in past years about online disinformation in general.
Videos that propped up Duterte falsely claimed that he was putting his critics and political opponents in their place. The same narrative is pushed for Duterte’s daughter, Sara, who trails behind by a few paces as top beneficiary of false information, presenting her as a figure who also puts her critics in their place.
Other false claims include false quotes by world leaders such as United States President Joe Biden or the United Kingdom’s Queen Elizabeth praising Duterte’s presidency.
Meanwhile, Marcos benefitted from disinformation with the following claims:
- That he won his electoral protest on the vice presidency.
- That the petitions challenging his candidacy had been junked.
- That he earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of Oxford.
- That a caravan of supporters of his presidential bid obtained a Guinness World record.
4. Majority of the disinformation was downright false.
Based on VERA Files’ fact checks on YouTube posts, the overwhelming majority were complete fabrications or directly contradicted facts.
All 25 videos of BANAT NEWS TV verified by VERA Files Fact Check turned out to be false, while Showbiz Fanaticz’s videos were rated fake (1), false (23) or misleading (3).
The YouTube channels employed a variety of deceptive tactics, the most common of which used false and clickbait headlines as well as video content that were not supported by factual evidence.
For example, Showbiz Fanaticz’s most popular video that VERA Files fact-checked — whose reuploaded version on FB could have reached 3.7 million people, according to social media monitoring tool CrowdTangle — was its Nov. 4 video claiming that the Supreme Court sided with Marcos and junked a disqualification case filed against him.
Its headline, “JUST IN: KORTE, KINAMPIHAN NA si BONGBONG MARCOS| ROBREDO at CARPIO BIGONG IPADISQUALIFY si BBM (Court sides with Bongbong Marcos| Robredo and Carpio fail to disqualify BBM)!” was false. No court had issued such a decision.
YouTube warns publishers against violating its community standards related to deceptive practices which include “using the title, thumbnails, description to trick users into believing the content is something it is not.”
Violation of these standards may be ground to terminate a channel or revoke its verification. However, with the steady stream of disinformation churned out by BANAT NEWS TV and Showbiz Fanaticz this year, this provision appears to have been ignored for the two channels.
5. The amplification of YouTube disinformation appears to be coordinated on Facebook.
A recent trend in YouTube disinformation observed by VERA Files Fact Check was the uploading of some of these videos on FB pages, websites and even a TikTok account.
This raised the reach of the YouTube videos to another level. For example, Showbiz Fanaticz’s false post about the Supreme Court and Marcos received only about 237,000 views on the platform, but copies uploaded on FB harvested an additional 897,000 views and on TikTok, some 341 more.
Also, some YouTube videos were simultaneously published on several social media accounts. This suggests that the uploading on FB was automated and raises the possibility that only one person was behind these pages.
The following graphics show the posting pattern of some of the stories that were amplified by the most number of social media accounts.
The same pattern of disinformation from YouTube crossing over to other platforms has been observed abroad. But one study found that curbing the spread of these false YouTube content can have an effect on its proliferation in other social media channels.
In October, the Center for Social Media and Politics at New York University reported drops in the shares of false and misleading election-related videos on FB and Twitter in the United States after YouTube introduced more stringent policies against harmful misinformation.
Nakakita ka na ba ng anumang kahina-hinalang pahayag, larawan, meme, o online post na gusto mong i-verify namin? Sagutan ang reader-request form na ito.
(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)