We’re Max Fisher and Amanda Taub, writers for The New York Times. We investigated how YouTube’s algorithm, which is built to keep you hooked, can also spread extremism and conspiracies. Ask us anything.
On this week’s episode of The Times’s new TV show “The Weekly,” we investigate how YouTube spread extremism and conspiracies in Brazil, and explore the research showing how the platform’s recommendation features helped boost right-wing political candidates into the mainstream, including a marginal lawmaker who rose to become president of Brazil.
YouTube is the most watched video platform in human history. Its algorithm-driven recommendation system played a role in driving some Brazilians toward far-right candidates and electing their new president, Jair Bolsonaro. Since taking office in January, he and his followers govern Brazil via YouTube, using the trolling and provocative tactics they honed during their campaigns to mobilize users in a kind of never-ending us-vs-them campaign. You can find the episode link and our takeaways here and read our full investigation into how YouTube radicalized Brazil and disrupted daily life.
We reported in June that YouTube’s automated recommendation system had linked together a vast video catalog of prepubescent, partly clothed children, directing hundreds of thousands of views to what a team of researchers called one of the largest child sexual exploitation networks they’d seen.
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