Mark Warner YouTube algorithm

Mark Warner/Flickr (CC-BY-SA)

YouTube could become the next election-hacking target, senator warns

He wants YouTube to wield its power responsibly.


Josh Katzowitz


Posted on Feb 5, 2018   Updated on May 22, 2021, 2:01 am CDT

Facebook and Twitter have already proven to be vehicles for foreign governments to try to affect U.S. elections. Now, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) is worried about the YouTube algorithms.

With the Guardian report last week that YouTube’s algorithm recommended anti-Hillary Clinton and pro-Donald Trump videos at a much higher rate than vice versa during the 2016 election, Warner—a member of the Senate’s Intelligence Committee—said he’s concerned about YouTube becoming another instrument for foreign adversaries.

“Companies like YouTube have immense power and influence in shaping the media and content that users see,” Warner said, via the Guardian. “I’ve been increasingly concerned that the recommendation engine algorithms behind platforms like YouTube are, at best, intrinsically flawed in optimizing for outrageous, salacious, and often fraudulent content. … At worst, they can be highly susceptible to gaming and manipulation by bad actors, including foreign intelligence entities.”

Google, which owns YouTube, was critical of the Guardian’s methodology and conclusion into how the “up next” videos, which deliver a huge bulk of traffic and keep the viewer on the site for longer, are determined. YouTube doesn’t discuss the specificity of its algorithm, but it did say, “Our search and recommendation systems reflect what people search for, the number of videos available, and the videos people choose to watch on YouTube. That’s not a bias towards any particular candidate; that is a reflection of viewer interest.”

That answer doesn’t satisfy the senator.

Said Warner, “The [tech] platform companies have enormous influence over the news we see and the shape of our political discourse, and they have an obligation to act responsibly in wielding that power.”

H/T the Hill

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*First Published: Feb 5, 2018, 1:22 pm CST