Well, regardless of whether you heard it or not, this news is not true, but a completely fabricated story. Self-proclaimed 'news channels' with tens of thousands of subscribers present such false information as the day's big news.
That is not where it ends. Such channels have also been found to mislead people by giving them inaccurate information about crime news.
For example, in the 2022 Shraddha Walkar murder case, some of them falsely claimed that the accused belonged to the Parsi community.
One such YouTube channel, named Only News 24x7, shared a video which carried a misleading claim about the President of India and the CJI.
At the time of writing this report, more than 20 lakh people had subscribed to this channel, which repeatedly publishes videos with a variety of claims related to the CJI.
The claims are not restricted to the contents of the video. These channels upload their videos with misleading headlines as well as misleading text in their thumbnails – static images placed on a YouTube video, meant to reflect the contents of the video.
The comments under such misleading videos make it evident that its viewers believe the information shared in the video.
In this special investigation by Team WebQoof, we will tell about about some of the many channels on YouTube which masquerade as legitimate news channels, but spread falsehoods for views, so you can spot these channels and not fall for their misleading information.
Some of these channels operate as a business, demanding funding from its viewers to “support“ the channel. Essentially, they raise funds from the audience to spread fake news and mislead them.
In What Ways Does Misinformation Spread on YouTube?
In its investigation, Team WebQoof discovered the tactics these channels employ to attract the attention of the viewers. Then, when viewers start watching their videos or subscribe to the channel, they give them a dose of misinformation in the form of news.
Tactic 1: A sensational thumbnail, which reflects something that is not in the news. Since the 2023 Cricket World Cup ended recently, lets try to understand it with an example of a claim related to cricketers.
However, the fight was not a direct altercation between the the two cricketers, so the claim that the two argued is baseless.
In media interviews, Gambhir had openly addressed the argument, and none of his statements corroborate the statement in the thumbnail.
Not only this, they also attempted to forcibly establish a connection between industrialist Ratan Tata and the accused, by misrepresenting the latter's religion.
Here is another example of a thumbnail being used to make misleading claims, where it says that the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) has been implemented in India.
This video, which makes the unfounded claims about UCC, surprisingly, has recorded over 10 lakh views. The channel which makes this claim is called 'Gaurav Thakur', and has a whopping 5.5 lakh subscribers.
However, the video does not mention ANY new rules or laws, but only provides information on old, existing ones.
Watch this video if you have ever considered 'fake news' to be true after seeing a misleading thumbnail or a misleading headline and avoid falling for this kind of misinformation.
There are no credible report on any platform, website, or media organisation with any information which comes remotely close to claim.
After the Enforcement Directorate (ED) issued a notice to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in a money laundering case related to the state's old excise policy, some channels used that information as a basis for publishing fake news.
A few have published videos claiming that following the notice, Kejriwal had surrendered to the ED, which is not true as of the writing of this story.
In addition to this, SM Headlines, too, demands money from its viewers in exchange for this kind of misinformation, another example of which is a video on this channel, which states that Kejriwal will lead the Opposition in the 2024 General elections.
We came across another channel spreading conspiracy theories called 'Important knowledge and facts videos (NKV)'. This channel, which has 72,000 subscribers, shares short videos which claim to impart knowledge and share facts.
However, we found that the 'knowledge' shared in historical leaders' names was not backed by any evidence. For example, it shared a false statement misattributed to former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, which has been previously debunked by The Quint's WebQoof.
Why Do Users Fall Into This Trap, and What Impact Does It Have?
Lets take a look at the comments under the videos of the channels we discussed. Doesn't it seem like the viewers believe that this information is true, and therefore, follow said channels?
Regarding platforms that spread fake news, psychologist Shraddha Milak says, "Such platforms take advantage of the curiosity of common users about famous people. People are attracted to sensational news, which is why such news spreads more rapidly."
Not only this, but continuously considering misinformation as truth also negatively impacts mental health.
"Fake news can increase your anxiety. It can create a feeling of inadequacy in you and create a feeling of being disconnected from reality. Continuously believing in fabricated stories increases stress and you can also become a victim of depression. Especially in people who may not be so mentally healthy."Shraddha Malik, Psychologist
Many such channels spreading misinformation have also been verified by YouTube. So, we reached out to the platform to get their response.
Responding to our questions, YouTube said that it had invested heavily in policies and products to connect people to authoritative content and remove content that violates its Community Guidelines.
The company added that it had removed more than 92K channels and 78K videos for violating these policies in the second quarter of 2023 for violating its misinformation policies.
The statement added that they have a higher bar for content monetising and regularly blocking ads from videos that violate those guidelines. Responding to some videos flagged by The Quint's WebQoof team, YouTube said it had blocked ads on a video from YouNews Live for "violating their Advertiser Friendly Guidelines"
(This article was first published by Quint Hindi and has been translated.)
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