YouTube, the Great Radicaliser

The writer says what we are witnessing is the computational exploitation of a natural human desire: to look "behind the curtain", to dig deeper into something that engages us. YouTube leads viewers down a rabbit hole of extremism, while owner Google
The writer says what we are witnessing is the computational exploitation of a natural human desire: to look "behind the curtain", to dig deeper into something that engages us. YouTube leads viewers down a rabbit hole of extremism, while owner Google racks up the ad sales.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

At one point during the 2016 US presidential election campaign, I watched a bunch of videos of Donald Trump rallies on YouTube. I was writing an article about his appeal to his voter base and wanted to confirm a few quotations. Soon I noticed something peculiar.

YouTube started to recommend and "autoplay" videos for me that featured white supremacist rants, Holocaust denials and other disturbing content. Since I was not in the habit of watching extreme right-wing fare on YouTube, I was curious whether this was an exclusively right-wing phenomenon.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 13, 2018, with the headline 'YouTube, the Great Radicaliser'. Subscribe