On Monday, YouTube announced a $25 million investment in the “future of news.” According to its official blog, one of the three members of YouTube’s original working group is Vox Media, which runs liberal news site Vox.com.
The YouTube blog post claimed that Vox Media is one of the three news sources — along with Brazil’s Jovem Pan and India Today — involved in the site’s initial working group toward building “[e]xpertise.” The working group will reportedly “help us [YouTube] develop new product features, improve the news experience on YouTube, and tackle emerging challenges.”
YouTube noted that they are “looking forward” to partnering with other news organizations “in the coming weeks.”
Vox.com’s editorial direction is decidedly left-leaning. Vox.com’s editor-at-large and founder, Ezra Klein, founded the JournoList listserv that helped quash negative stories about former President Obama and his ties to Jeremiah Wright. Last month, Klein wrote an article on the site titled, “Donald Trump’s presidency is an American crisis.” In the piece, Klein concluded, “This isn’t a reality show, and it’s not a pulp novel. This is the most powerful country the world has ever known being run by a man singularly unqualified to run it. Our president lacks legitimacy, our government is paralyzed, our problems are going unsolved. [...] America is not being made great. It is being made weak, and it is only getting worse.”
Even more egregiously, in May 2017, Vox.com tweeted an article titled, “Turns out North Korea’s economy is actually doing pretty well” before changing the headline to “The North Korean economy is actually growing despite sanctions.”
It is unclear if the news organizations selected to participate in the working group will have any bearing on the ideological leanings of products made by YouTube.
In addition to relying on Vox Media and others as part of the expertise working group, funding will also be provided to “approximately 20 global markets to support news organizations in building sustainable video operations,” who will be determined after an application process. YouTube also claims it will be expanding its support for news publishers, using “training and best practices in formats, audience development, day-to-day platform operations, and sophisticated technical integrations.”
The blog post also unveiled YouTube’s new plan for tackling breaking news stories and controversial topics: by relying on “authoritative sources.” YouTube announced that after a story breaks, it will preview news stories about the topic in its search results in the “Top News shelf” or “Breaking News shelf.” The featured image in the blog post included videos from CNN and Fox News below a news story from USA Today. It also said it will begin displaying information from Wikipedia and Encyclopedia Britannica “alongside videos on a small number of well-established historical and scientific topics that have often been subject to misinformation, like the moon landing and the Oklahoma City Bombing.”
As well, the blog post detailed the Google News Initiative, Google.com, and YouTube teaming up to support the MediaWise effort to give teenagers “digital literacy skills.”