Guillaume Chaslot @gchaslot t.co/55RnnVE2Hv / Advisor at Center for Humane Technology / Ex-Google Nov. 19, 2018 2 min read

The YouTube algorithm that I helped build in 2011 still recommends the flat earth theory by the *hundreds of millions*. This investigation by @RawStory shows some of the real-life consequences of this badly designed AI.

This spring at SxSW, @SusanWojcicki promised "Wikipedia snippets" on debated videos. But they didn't put them on flat earth videos, and instead @YouTube is promoting merchandising such as "NASA lies - Never Trust a Snake". 2/

A few example of flat earth videos that were promoted by YouTube #today:
 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1McqA9ChCnA  3/

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XFSH5fnqda4  4/

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iop8j4WJDXM  5/

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PnU-kxFQMfI  6/

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T8-YdgU-CF4  7/

And this one would be hilarious if not recommended so massively to people who are the most vulnerable to conspiracies
 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9mwy8tux3Jo 
8/

@nasa's @mlthaller nicely shows in 3 minutes why the earth is round and wonders: Why do so many people believe in flat earth? But the conspiracy is promoted by YouTube 100,000,000s of times, so I'm actually surprised that *so few* people fall for it 9/

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CGjFAe018oA 

NBA star @KyrieIrving fell for it and explained that he was convinced both by Instagram and YouTube recommendations 10/

 https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/2018/10/02/kyrie-irving-sorry-saying-earth-is-flat-blames-it-youtube-rabbit-hole/?utm_term=.d5c4d03e0f58 

So basically we have the two best AIs of the world, on Instagram and YouTube, competing to convince people that the earth is flat. Because it yields large amounts of watch time, and watch time yields ads. This is a #raceToTheBottom 11/

Flat Earth is not a "small bug". It reveals that there is a structural problem in Google's and Facebook's AIs: they exploit weaknesses of the most vulnerable people, to make them believe the darnedest things 12/

Another real-life harm of this conspiracy promoted by AI: in Nigeria, Boko Haram used the flat earth theory to motivate the killings of more than 600 geography teachers 😰 13/

 https://www.latimes.com/world/africa/la-fg-nigeria-boko-haram-teachers-20161020-story.html 
 https://www.theweek.co.uk/71426/boko-haram-targets-geography-teachers-for-assassination 

More info on the link between Boko Haram and flat earth in this detailed @latimes article 14/

Full @latimes article here:
 https://www.latimes.com/world/africa/la-fg-nigeria-boko-haram-teachers-20161020-story.html 
15/

How do we know if harmful videos get promoted by the AI? To monitor that, I created  http://algotransparency.org , a site that scans YouTube recommendations daily. If harmful videos get recommended by the AI from many channels, they will appear at the top of the list there. 16/

For now, it is available in English for YouTube yet, but with the help of universities and @HumaneTech_, it will soon cover more languages and platforms 17/

The real danger of AI is not that it becomes "self-conscious". It's that we trust it too much and slowly become imbeciles

Flat-earthers are the canaries in the coalmine /18

I've seen some people state that: "canaries are only a small fraction of our users!"

I think they're missing the point. 19/

"Ban all the canaries from the coal mine!" also misses the point.

With AI in charge of our information, we're facing a brand new, existential problem that concerns all of us. We need to develop tools to understand it better. 20/


You can follow Guillaume Chaslot.

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