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The Notre Dame Cathedral fire on Monday became the subject of many live streams as spectators from all over the world tuned in to watch the 850-year-old structure collapse into flames.
Viewers who tuned in through YouTube, however, might have seen something unexpected as they looked for the latest news surrounding the incident. As journalist Joshua Benton pointed out on Twitter, YouTube’s live stream of the Notre Dame fire featured links to Encyclopedia Britannica’s entries concerning the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York.
Why in the world is @YouTube putting information about 9/11 underneath the Notre Dame livestream from @FRANCE24?— Joshua Benton (@jbenton) April 15, 2019
(Especially since it seems like, at least right now, ongoing renovations are the most likely cause, no indication of terror) https://t.co/A3HP36epxx pic.twitter.com/ZheCMC5pcG
As part of a May 2018 initiative to combat conspiracy videos on its platform, YouTube instituted the practice of linking to Wikipedia articles about the video’s subject. YouTube received some criticism for not consulting with Wikipedia before putting this method into practice. Shortly after, in July 2018, Encyclopedia Britannica announced it would partner with YouTube to provide verified information.
YouTube did not immediately respond to the Daily Dot’s request for comment, but a spokesperson told Gizmodo that the 9/11 information appeared on videos showing the Notre Dame fire because the panels are “triggered algorithmically.”
“Our systems sometimes make the wrong call,” the spokesperson said. “We are disabling these panels for live streams related to the fire.”
Soon after the fire became news, InfoWars’ Paul Joseph Watson and other far-right figures began to promote conspiracy theories about the incident, claiming without evidence that the fire was set deliberately in an act of terrorism.
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Ignacio Martinez is a journalism student at the University of Texas at Austin and an intern at the Daily Dot. His work has appeared in the Texas Observer and on the airwaves at KVRX 91.7 FM.