The YouTube algorithm that I helped build in 2011 still recommends the flat earth theory by the *hundreds of millions*. This investigation by @RawStory shows some of the real-life consequences of this badly designed AI.

This spring at SxSW, @SusanWojcicki promised "Wikipedia snippets" on debated videos. But they didn't put them on flat earth videos, and instead @YouTube is promoting merchandising such as "NASA lies - Never Trust a Snake". 2/
A few example of flat earth videos that were promoted by YouTube #today: 3/ 4/ 5/ 6/ 7/
And this one would be hilarious if not recommended so massively to people who are the most vulnerable to conspiracies
@nasa's @mlthaller nicely shows in 3 minutes why the earth is round and wonders: Why do so many people believe in flat earth? But the conspiracy is promoted by YouTube 100,000,000s of times, so I'm actually surprised that *so few* people fall for it 9/
NBA star @KyrieIrving fell for it and explained that he was convinced both by Instagram and YouTube recommendations 10/
So basically we have the two best AIs of the world, on Instagram and YouTube, competing to convince people that the earth is flat. Because it yields large amounts of watch time, and watch time yields ads. This is a #raceToTheBottom 11/
Flat Earth is not a "small bug". It reveals that there is a structural problem in Google's and Facebook's AIs: they exploit weaknesses of the most vulnerable people, to make them believe the darnedest things 12/
Another real-life harm of this conspiracy promoted by AI: in Nigeria, Boko Haram used the flat earth theory to motivate the killings of more than 600 geography teachers 😰 13/
More info on the link between Boko Haram and flat earth in this detailed @latimes article 14/
Full @latimes article here:
How do we know if harmful videos get promoted by the AI? To monitor that, I created, a site that scans YouTube recommendations daily. If harmful videos get recommended by the AI from many channels, they will appear at the top of the list there. 16/
For now, it is available in English for YouTube yet, but with the help of universities and @HumaneTech_, it will soon cover more languages and platforms 17/
The real danger of AI is not that it becomes "self-conscious". It's that we trust it too much and slowly become imbeciles

Flat-earthers are the canaries in the coalmine /18
I've seen some people state that: "canaries are only a small fraction of our users!"

I think they're missing the point. 19/
"Ban all the canaries from the coal mine!" also misses the point.

With AI in charge of our information, we're facing a brand new, existential problem that concerns all of us. We need to develop tools to understand it better. 20/
One more key to understand this: this @KELLYWEILL's article shows that some people spent *days* on YouTube after being converted to flat earth

From the algorithm's point of view, flat earth is a gold mine.

Full article:

Also fascinating in this article is that Logan Paul was a speaker at a Flat-Earth conference, where he said "I’m coming out of the Flat Earth closet". He has 18,610,154 followers on YouTube, mostly pre-teens and teens 22/

Most Liked Replies

What were the chances that sociopaths would develop algorithms that only created wealth for their endless greed. We're fucked until we regulate and de-monopolize these beasts.
This algorithm had a HUGE influence on recent Brazilian elections, and still does after its result. YT recommends vids about "Communist and gay indoctrination in schools", "Nazism is leftist", etc; on the homepage and even on trustworthy channels! It's a great risk for democracy.
The real life consequences of this artificial intelligence is exposing the real life consequences of a lack of intelligence.
Siva Vaidhyanathan🗽🤘🏽:
Let's not let @facebook off the hook, either. It's all part of the same ecosystem with the same toxic algorithmic amplification. Plus Groups!
Thank you for this thread!
I wish it would be just flat earth. In German speaking YouTube a "blank" browser will get alt-right, crypto-fashist and "Reichsbürger" recommendations when watching a clip with political or historical content.
Andres Guadamuz:
I've been obsessed with this subject for the last couple of months, I clicked on a video out of curiosity and my suggestions were flooded by flat earth content. It's a viral infection attacking science and reality, driven by recommendations and clicks
Paul Rysz:
People watch YouTube videos and start to think that AI threat are humanoid robots shooting people in near-future while the actual AI threat is the algorithm making them watch those videos in the first place.
Ryan Mella👎👎🏻👎🏼👎🏽👎🏾👎🏿:
I think it’s more of a problem with the people really. I mean if you’re that stupid to believe something as wild as the Earth being flat because of a simple YouTube video you’re way too gullible. You probably shouldn’t have access to the internet really
Victor Von Doom:
Funny how monetising things heavily in this world often leads to unsavoury results.
Michelle H:
My teen told me that 9/11 never happened after finding conspiracies on YouTube. My faith in tech is forever broken.

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