How YouTube Drives People to the Internet’s Darkest Corners

Google’s video site often recommends divisive or misleading material, despite recent changes designed to fix the problem

YouTube engineered its algorithm several years ago to make the site “sticky”—to recommend videos that keep users staying to watch still more, said current and former YouTube engineers who helped build it. The site earns money selling ads that run before and during videos.

The algorithm doesn’t seek out extreme videos, they said, but looks for clips that data show are already drawing high traffic and keeping people on the site. Those videos often tend to be sensationalist and on the extreme fringe, the engineers said.

.. The same search in YouTube and Google can produce strikingly divergent results.

.. Google spokeswoman Crystal Dahlen said that Google improved its algorithm last year “to surface more authoritative content, to help prevent the spread of blatantly misleading, low-quality, offensive or downright false information,” adding that it is “working with the YouTube team to help share learnings.”

.. In October, YouTube tweaked its algorithm to return more mainstream sources on breaking-news queries after searches about the deadly Las Vegas shooting yielded videos claiming the government was involved.

.. Since then, the Journal’s tests show, news searches in YouTube return fewer videos from highly partisan channels.

Father’s History Could Offer Insight Into Mind of Las Vegas Gunman

one of the most telling documents might be a yellowed, four-page psychiatric evaluation from 1960 that details the father who raised Stephen Paddock until he was 7 and who loomed over the family even after he disappeared.

.. “I get the impression he enjoys being an interesting subject of examination,” the doctor wrote. He concluded that Mr. Paddock was bright, with no history of “mental defect,” and was able to stand trial. But, the doctor added, Mr. Paddock had a “sociopathic personality.”

.. Benjamin Paddock had boasted during his psychological evaluation that his run-ins with authority started early and rarely stopped. He was an only child, pampered by his mother and not disciplined by his father. “I got away with an awful lot,” he told his evaluator. “I went where I felt like it, disrupting everybody’s schedule.” By 12 he was driving his own car.

Mandalay Bay embodied everything modern Las Vegas wanted to be. Until this week.

Here, they are not tourists. They are resortists, which is what Mandalay calls its guests. It was their first time back in two years, but a bellhop remembered their names and a cocktail waitress remembered their drinks. Mandalay remembers all their bets, too; it tracks them via electronic rewards cards. They prefer high-stakes baccarat. Their stay is fully comped. They have a host to manage their needs.

.. Vegas is full of mini-civilizations. Circus Circus is for middle-class families. Aria is definitely on the bougie side. The Linq is for college revelers. The Wynn, the Venetian, the Bellagio — the clientele’s a bit old, kind of posh. Caesar’s is garish, the Tropicana’s homely. The three MGM-owned resorts on this end of the strip ascend in order of ritziness as you move south: Excalibur, then Luxor, then Mandalay Bay — the grandest of the trio, and the first resort Californians hit on their way into town.

.. It is stimulant and tranquilizer.

.. There is no Mandalay Bay aesthetic, because it has every aesthetic — art deco, midcentury modern, 1980s brassworks, 1990s proportions

.. MGM Resorts International, Mandalay’s parent company

YouTube Tweaks Search Results After False Claims Rise to Top

Debunked claims appear in top 5 videos for news about Las Vegas shooting, NFL anthem protests


YouTube this week surfaced videos peddling misinformation, hateful messages and conspiracy theories to users searching about mainstream news events—problems that caused the site to change its search results to promote more authoritative sources.

For example, the fifth result when searching “Las Vegas shooting” on YouTube late Tuesday yielded a video titled “Proof Las Vegas Shooting Was a FALSE FLAG attack—Shooter on 4th Floor.” The video said there were multiple shooters in Sunday’s mass shooting, a claim refuted by law enforcement. Posted by a channel called the End Times News Report, it had amassed more than 1.1 million views in about 27 hours.

The fourth result when searching “NFL anthem protest” on Wednesday was a video that claimed Anheuser-Busch InBev BUD +1.06% NV was considering pulling its sponsorship of the National Football League over national anthem protests—and urged viewers to push the company to do so. The claim had been widely debunked days before.

.. The high search ranking of the End Times News Report video claiming there was a second shooter in Las Vegas helped it gain 371,000 views over four hours late Tuesday. On Wednesday, YouTube removed the video.

.. “I know I’m not as authoritative as The Wall Street Journal or New York Times , ” he said. “I’m just a guy with a computer offering an opinion, and to get punished for that is draconian.”

.. When a user watches a dubious video, YouTube typically suggests similar videos, a practice that can confirm users’ existing biases. But The Wall Street Journal found cases this week in which YouTube suggested conspiracy-theory and highly politicized videos next to videos from mainstream news sources, suggesting the site was also pushing fringe content to users who haven’t shown an interest in it.

.. The person familiar with YouTube said the company recognizes there are problems with its “Up next” algorithm and it is examining changes to promote more authoritative results.