Students fall down the “YouTube Rabbit Hole”

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Chance Simpson, Staff Writer

The YouTube algorithm has been recommending conspiracy and strongly opinionated videos for many years to people all over the world. This is known as the “YouTube Rabbit Hole Effect”.

According to Elizabeth Dowskin from the Washington Post, “YouTube has taken into account satisfaction, likes, dislike and other metrics into their algorithm. When a video is viewed to the end many times the software may automatically start promoting it.” Essentially, YouTube promotes videos it thinks you’ll like, including nonfactual videos.

Alexa Kurzius, a science journalist for The New York Times Upfront, states, “Searches for the moon landing, Parkland activists, and the Las Vegas shooting will lead to conspiracies claiming the moon landing was a hoax, the Parkland shooters were actors, and the government was behind the Las Vegas shooting.” This presents a problem for people who are looking for facts. It can affect massive crowds if inaccurate information is spread.

YouTube has been trying to actively improve their algorithm. Greg Bensinger from The Washington Post writes, “Google has previously removed over 200 channels from YouTube after they behaved in a coordinated manner while uploading videos related to the months-long unrest in Hong Kong.” Still, misleading videos can cause harm for students or people trying to find factual info.

Such is the case for Jack Odom, a junior at Catholic High who watches YouTube almost every day. He says, “Sometimes I’ll just watch a couple videos, sometimes I’ll binge. I like a lot of history videos, but also I like watching video games, stuff like that.” The algorithm could affect Jack when he is looking for history videos for information. He does, however, feel strongly that YouTube should not take down or censor videos that may not be factual. He goes on to say, “That’s like a big problem going on right now on YouTube. A lot of the content creators who YouTube doesn’t agree with their ideas and stuff are being taken down and I just don’t think that’s right.”

For students at Catholic High, YouTube is watched at home and in the classroom. Timothy Chustz, a Religion IV teacher at Catholic High, plays music, motivation clips, and parody clips in the classroom. This gives an insight into how YouTube is used in the classroom. If a video is recommended with bad information and is watched in the classroom it could give students false information and that is not ideal for a classroom setting.

YouTube affects everyone, from students, to teachers, to little kids. Mark Messina, the band director here at Catholic High, says that he uses YouTube for his three-year-old. YouTube impacts most people. It could be minute, such as watching some comedy videos for entertainment, but it could also influence a person’s entire political opinion. I think YouTube is great for students; it gives us information, entertainment, and music, but people should keep an eye out for videos that aren’t true. We need to be able to separate the conspiracies from the fact, and maybe not spend all night watching YouTube.