With the development of various new technologies, individuals today look towards new online media as well as various social media platform for their news. Consequently, this may bring up various concerns about the accuracy and credibility regarding the circulation of different news sources. Social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook have definitely accelerated the rate at which stories circulate but have also revealed the dangers to sensationalized headlines that are often shared. In the particular case of Youtube, a concern revolving around their association to spreading misinformation, potential political bias and even the incentivizing of clickbait is highly likely. However, it can be argued that social media platforms like Youtube create democratic spaces for dialogue and conversations.
WHAT IS YOUTUBE?
Youtube is an example of a platform that incorporates both media distribution and production with social networking features, making them an optimal space to connect, collaborate and create. By encouraging individuals to become media creators and social networkers, new media platforms like YouTube offer a participatory culture in which one can develop, interact and learn (Chau, 2010). Although there are many benefits to this participatory culture, YouTube is one of the many companies known to be both political and democratized in various aspects. For instance, it is deemed to be political for the fact that it is privately owned and democratized because it is a platform based on a public sphere. The concept of the public sphere was defined within week 6 of the course and can be defined as “a domain of our social life in which such a thing as public opinion can be formed” (Norman, 2020, Week 6 Lecture).
YOUTUBE’S DEMOCRATIC SPHERE
To further explain the democratic environment on YouTube, it is important to understand that through the platform, individuals have the power to access videos/content created by users from all around the world. The social change in our generation has shifted into an online space (cyberinfrastructure) where an individual can now build a personal brand and turn it into a career. The company itself has undergone a variety of changes and has transformed from a video-sharing site into a job opportunity for content creators in both new and mainstream media (Holland, 2016). The website’s online celebrities, popularly known as “YouTubers,” are now using their appeal to content viewers and traditional media to strengthen their branding. Anyone that uploads onto the site now has the opportunity to become a “YouTuber” through the freedom given to create content and upload original videos.
An excellent example of a recognized channel that utilizes the platform’s democratic nature is The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (2020). The host, Stephen Colbert, creates videos and content based on satirizing and discussing current events, especially within politics relating to the United States. This is exemplified in one of his videos titled, “This Monologue Goes Out To You, Mr.President” (2017) where he speaks freely about his opinions and makes jokes directed specifically towards Mr.Donald Trump. Likewise, this idea of open dialogue is openly displayed in the comment section where a user can comment on the video as well as participate in discussion with other’s quite freely.
Despite Youtube’s benefits and positive aspects as a news source, there are still concerns to be aware of. Youtube went through substantial changes after being sold to Google for $1.65 billion dollars in 2006 (NBC News, 2006). This created a shift in the content being created and was the start of commodification through ads. The advertisements placed into Youtube during videos and on their website are how creators gain revenue. Essentially, YouTubers monetize their videos by partnering with Google’s most valuable asset, AdSense. Google Adsense is a CPC (cost-per-click) advertising program that works by matching text and display ads to your site based on your content and visitors (Google Adsense, 2020). The experience of Youtube may allow users to thrive but ultimately the site’s owners and corporate partners gain the most benefit financially.
HOW TO DISTINGUISH BETWEEN FAKE NEWS IN THE YOUTUBE ENVIRONMENT
When it comes to YouTube, many base their channel on the premise of giving reviews and openly sharing their personal opinions. Unfortunately, this opens the door to allow anyone with an audience and a channel to share potential fake news and create echo chambers. Since the news has become something consumers can access almost instantly, users of social media have grown more accustomed to having choices of where to get their news (Kovach & Rosenstiel, 2010, p.22). This has made the act of being able to properly distinguish between reliable and fake new sources essential. A “tradecraft of skepticism” introduced in an article by Kovach and Rosenstiel (2019), explains a few questions that should be asked while determining. Asking questions like, what sort of content am I engaging with? Is there anything missing from the information being presented to me? What/who are the sources? Examining these elements can help individuals recognize if the information being provided is reliable/credible. It is crucial to know the differences and not fall into consuming media that is custom-made to fool you (Annett, 2017).
Overall, YouTube thinks critically about the aspects that motivate participants “to share information and to build relationships with the communities shaping its circulation” (Jenkins, 2013, pg.196). They have given individuals the power to comment, share, subscribe and access videos/content created by users all over the world. The company has created a democratic space meant to create dialogue and even stimulate hard but crucial conversations. Users of the platform should always be wary and conscious when it comes to consuming and potentially sharing fake news allegations, echo chambers and false news.
Annett, E. (2017, February 1). What is ‘fake news,’ and how can you spot it? Try our quiz. Retrieved from https://www.theglobeandmail.com/community/digital-lab/fake-news-quiz-how-to-spot/article33821986/?fbclid=IwAR0AcppPdqOt_MmoDGcsuMoVV4fhwql66yeSdcBVl3FSiuwrCYlusVNbBhw
Chau, Clement. (2010). YouTube as a Participatory Culture. New Directions for Youth Development, 2010(128), 65-74.
Holland, M. (2016). How YouTube Developed into a Successful Platform for User-Generated Content. Elon Journal of Undergraduate Research in Communications, 7(1), 52-59
Jenkins, H., Ford, S., & Green, J. (2013). Designing for Spreadability. In Spreadable Media: Creating value and meaning in a networked culture (pp. 195-228). New York: NYU Press.
Kovach, Bill & Rosenstiel, Tom. (2010, Oct 5). Blur: How to Know What’s True in an Age of Information Overload. Pages 1- 25.
Kovach, Bill & Rosenstiel, Tom. (2019, July 15). The Elements of Journalism. Retrieved from https://www.americanpressinstitute.org/journalism-essentials/what-is-journalism/elements-journalism/
NBC News, A. (2006, October 10). Google buys YouTube for $1.65 billion. Retrieved April 02, 2018, from http://www.nbcnews.com/id/15196982/ns/business-us_business/t/ google-buys-youtube-billion/#.WsedXBPwZmA
Norman, S. (2020). Week 6: Publics and Counter publics [Lecture]. Retrieved from https://prezi.com/bah_9nato_yu/publics-and-counterpublics/
The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. (2020). Home [YouTube Channel]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCMtFAi84ehTSYSE9XoHefig
The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. (May, 2017). This Monologue Goes Out To You, Mr. President [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HaHwlSTqA7s