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Here’s how YouTube’s algorithm promotes extremist content — and Google could easily fix it

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Google could easily fix one of the problems that quickly leads some users to extremist content online — but the tech giant has so far shown little interest.

Right-wing extremists have learned to exploit YouTube’s algorithm to get their videos recommended alongside less extreme content, and the engineers who designed it worry that it reinforces fringe views, reported The Daily Beast.

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“People think it’s suggesting the most relevant, this thing that’s very specialized for you. That’s not the case,” said Guillaume Chaslot, who worked on the team that developed the algorithm. “The goal of the algorithm is really to keep you in line the longest.”

Some former employees say that emphasis on watch time filters out opposing viewpoints, which then helps to reinforce fringe ideas.

“I realized really fast that YouTube’s recommendation was putting people into filter bubbles,” Chaslot said. “There was no way out. If a person was into flat Earth conspiracies, it was bad for watch-time to recommend anti-flat Earth videos, so it won’t even recommend them.”

Matt, a former right-winger who asked to withhold his name, told The Daily Beast that his indoctrination began with a video of Bill Maher and Ben Affleck discussing Islam, which then led him to an extreme anti-Islam video by Infowars conspiracy theorist Paul Joseph Watson — which took him even further down the rabbit hole.

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“Delve into [Watson’s] channel and start finding his anti-immigration stuff which often in turn leads people to become more sympathetic to ethno-nationalist politics,” Matt said.

The same scenario plays out in the gaming and atheism communities, where an opposition to feminism leads young men toward extreme opposition to so-called “social justice warriors.”

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“I think the anti-SJW stuff appeals to young white guys who feel like they’re losing their status for lack of a better term,” Matt said. “They see that minorities are advocating for their own rights, and this makes them uncomfortable so they try and fight against it.”

Andrew, another former right-winger, told The Daily Beast that YouTube videos persuaded him that social justice causes were a plot against him — and that helped him embrace extremism.

“Once you’ve gotten someone to believe that, you can actually go all the way to white supremacy fairly quickly,” he said.

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Chaslot, the former YouTube engineer, said he suggested to the company that users should be allowed to opt out of the recommendation algorithm — but he said Google was not interested.

Google’s chief executive officer, Sundar Pichai, was questioned last week during a congressional hearing about problematic recommendations, but he made no promise to do anything about the algorithm.

“It’s an area we acknowledge there’s more work to be done, and we’ll definitely continue doing that,” Pichai told lawmakers. “But I want to acknowledge there is more work to be done. With our growth comes more responsibility. And we are committed to doing better as we invest more in this area.”

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Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

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Before Trump eyed Greenland: Here’s what happened last time the US bought a large chunk of the Arctic

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Editor’s note: Reports that President Donald Trump has urged aides to look into buying Greenland make us think of the last time the United States bought a major territory in the Arctic: the purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867. Two years ago, we asked William L. Iggiagruk Hensley, a visiting professor at the University of Alaska Anchorage, to write about that historic sale.

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CNN’s Jake Tapper confronts Trump adviser Navarro with long list of experts calling him a disaster

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In a highly contentious interview on CNN's "State of the Union", host Jake Tapper confronted Donald Trump's top economic adviser, Peter Navarro, with a seemingly endless list of economists, analysts and business publications who believe he and his economic advice have both been a disaster and that he is not being straight with the public.

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Internet goes wild over ‘obviously drunk’ Larry Kudlow on Fox News: ‘He’s lying while slurring his words’

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Speculation was rampant on Sunday that White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow was drunk on Fox News.

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Twitter, however, was buzzing about Kudlow's speech patterns instead of his questionable economic optimism.

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