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News views on YouTube jump 75% as millions of users turn to platform for updates on Covid-19

As the virus spread, YouTube had to confront misleading and outright false videos, too, a persistent problem for the site.

YouTube sees 75% jump in news views on thirst for virus updates
YouTube sees 75% jump in news views on thirst for virus updates (REUTERS)

News viewership on YouTube soared 75% in recent weeks from the same time last year, with millions of people turning to the video site for updates on the coronavirus, Chief Product Officer Neal Mohan told Bloomberg Television.

YouTube, part of Alphabet Inc.'s Google, reaches more than two billion viewers a month and has had a significant traffic surge since the pandemic took hold. One of the largest upswings went to videos the company classifies as "news," according to Mohan. "People are trying to consume as much information around this crisis," he said. "It's top of mind for everybody."

The world's largest online video hub ranks news and medical videos according to their "authoritativeness," using a mixture of automation and human evaluators, although it does not share those ranking scores publicly. On videos that mention the virus, YouTube began running an information panel linking to health agencies, which Mohan said has been viewed more than 10 billion times. YouTube also added a tab on its homepage to feature news videos about Covid-19.

As the virus spread, YouTube had to confront misleading and outright false videos, too, a persistent problem for the site. It has so far removed "thousands" of videos for violating policies on disinformation related to the virus. And YouTube has adjusted these policies repeatedly, restricting videos promoting a conspiracy theory tying the virus to 5G networks and those that "might encourage people to flout stay-at-home orders," Mohan said. Additionally, the company now says it is removing videos connected to #filmyourhospital -- a social-media misinformation campaign designed to suggest the virus is a hoax.

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"We're remaining as vigilant as possible," Mohan said. The executive also added that the new policies would remain intact once the pandemic subsides.

Despite the jump in viewing, YouTube, like other big online platforms, has seen a drop in advertising spending as many of its marketing clients slash budgets. Mohan declined to discuss changes in sales.

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