YouTube has received recent criticism for continuing to host coronavirus (COVID-19) disinformation on its own video sharing platform while in the midst of a global health emergency. An 18-day investigation was launched to examine the video sharing platform by two US advocacy groups for online safety.
The investigation found out that fake COVID-19 vaccines costing $135 as well as uncertified masks were being sold on this platform! Aside from this misinformation, there were also dozens of examples of dubious videos found.
Online scammers rampant during the coronavirus pandemic
There has been a huge concern regarding shortages of masks as well as online scammers taking advantage of the situation to sell masks of unknown quality as well as fake coronavirus cures and vaccines! Many social media platforms have already pledged to do their part in stopping the COVID-19 misinformation.
According to Google's recent statement, they are temporarily taking down certain ads for masks from their ad network but sellers are still looking to exploit the situation by using YouTube's video sharing platform as an alternative digital shop window for them to lure in possible buyers.
According to researchers from the Digital Citizens Alliance or DCA together with the Coalition for a Safer Web or CSW, conversations with the sellers themselves have been launched only to find that dodgy coronavirus wares do exist on YouTube! DCA and CSW reported that even vaccines were being sold along with hundreds of masks which quality is still unknown.
In their report, screengrabs of certain interactions with the sellers showed that they do not accept credit cards but rather Google, PayPal, CashApp or Amazon gift cards, or even Bitcoin. The exact seller which had offered the researchers the fake coronavirus vaccines had given them the price of $135 each suggesting that they purchase the MMR/Varicella which was deemed as one of "the best".
One seller was even found to be hawking what was known as "COVID-19 drugs" while using a YouTube account name "Real ID Card Fake Passport Producer". This has been an alarming discovery for the DCA and CSW as they realize that the spread of scammers taking advantage of the global pandemic has reached YouTube itself.
According to a spokesman from DCA, researchers have already compiled the report based on certain content spread around 60 videos where they have been able to identify the hawking coronavirus-related 'cures' between the dates of March 6 and March 24.
The groups are being critical of how YouTube's own platform holds the risk of lending credibility to coronavirus disinformation since data is not easily being tracked down through their platform. The platform is reported to be able to fake credibility by displaying official CDC-branded banners under their COVID-19 related materials which contain the sketchy products.
YouTube's response to the situation
YouTube themselves have replied to the situation saying, "We're committed to providing helpful information at this critical time." Continuing with saying that they would raise the authoritative content as well as reduce the information panels who are "using WHO / CDC data, to help combat misinformation."