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Guardian alleges Youtube algorithm bias in favour of Trump & “conspiracy theories”

Guillaume Chaslot “ex-Youtube insider”

On February 1 the Guardian ran two pieces on alleged pro-Trump, pro-conspiracy, anti-government bias in Youtube’s “up next” algorithm.

The first – “Fiction is outperforming reality’: how YouTube’s algorithm distorts truth” – is a profile of “Guillaume Chaslot” a “French computer programmer” and an “ex-YouTube insider” who allegedly “reveals how its recommendation algorithm promotes divisive clips and conspiracy videos.”

“Did they harm Hillary Clinton’s bid for the presidency?” demands the standfirst, setting the agenda from the off.

To sum up for those who don’t want to plough through the bloated text, the article is a splicing of the author’s (Paul Lewis) own uninteresting personal experiences of the Youtube algorithm taking him “on a journey of its own volition” to “a video of two boys, aged about five or six, punching and kicking one another,” with broad entirely unchecked and uncorroborated claims from Chaslot about what he says the algorithm shows about Youtube bias.

The ‘meat’ of the story, if there is any, is that the public-spirited M. Chaslot was allegedly fired by Google in 2013, and has now – as a maverick outsider – built a program that can monitor Youtube’s secret algorithms used to select recommended content to its viewers.

Using this program Chaslot has allegedly discovered this rampant bias in favour of the usual suspects. In fact Guillaume claims his software has detected YT’s selection algorithm had an 80% bias in favour of Trump over Clinton during the election.

The second Guardian piece from Feb 1, “How an ex-YouTube insider investigated its secret algorithm” (they are really pushing this), pretty much reiterates these claims from a slightly different perspective. In this one two Guardianistas (Paul again and someone called Erin) checked the list of “8,052” videos Guillaume’s software produced as evidence of bias. The pair seem very excited about their ‘research’, but since they have made no effort to examine the program itself or verify its balance or objectivity, their results are more or less worthless. GIGA always applies. Until we know exactly how Chaslot’s code works and until it’s been verified by some other parties, its conclusion remain moot at best.

The idea Youtube has a bias in favour of conspiracy theories seems fairly unlikely and will probably come as a very big surprise to all those whose “conspiracy-theory” accounts have been targeted for demonetization, or suffered “banning..and de-trending…for posting hateful, fake or inappropriate content that challenges or mocks progressive narratives” since the previous clamp down on free thought by Google. In fact, given all this established fact, at this stage some of you inveterate sceptics and “conspiracy-theorists” out there might even be wondering how reliable M. Chaslot’s software actually is.

There’s no real information about this in either of the articles, beyond unverified claims that the program selects only top recommends on each pass. Chaslot’s website doesn’t seem to shed any light either.

The most potentially useful avenue to explore is to simply do your own searches using Chaslot’s professed method. Do you find the same overwhelming preponderance of conspiracy videos and pro-Trump videos as he and the Guardianistas claim? Let us know your results.

Another helpful thing is a link the Guardian provides to Chaslot’s code on GitHub.

If any of you out there are coders why not check it out while it remains available. See if Chaslot’s results can be duplicated. Is his program telling us a surprising truth, or is it flawed and unrepresentative?

This isn’t a trivial question, because today’s Guardian article on the same subject -“ Senator warns YouTube algorithm may be open to manipulation by ‘bad actors’” – makes it absolutely clear these claims are going to be used as a basis for fresh and probably draconian censorship which may see the end of any place on YouTube for opinions that even mildly question those sanctified “progressive narratives” of militarism, Russia-hate, endless war and global austerity.


14 Comments

  1. Alan says

    The Guardian piece appears aligned with Google Jigsaw’s efforts to disorientate any rational, impartial evaluation of current events. As usual the pieces offered support the originators perspective perfectly.

  2. flybow says

    seeing that people like peekay have had their channels terminated. This is utter twaddle from the graun.

  3. “He who is not with us is against us” — the call of the ideological fanatic, from St.Paul to Shrimp Bush. Final proof that the Guardian is now a fanatically ideological Anglo-Zio-Capitalist Liberal Interventionist Resource War propaganda outlet. I am not at all surprised at the statistics from the social media (as opposed to the AZC controlled MSMedia) — Trump got 80% more tweets than Hillary Shrillary Killary because Trump was a more interesting candidate than Grandma Goldman Sachs. It happened so long ago; does anyone else still remember when First Lady Hilary Clinton visited the Yad va Shem Holocaust Centre dressed in black with a tasteful veil covering her cranial hair? Not long after that Hilary became Senator for New York; at which Time Magazine wrote: the most dangerous place in the United States will be for anyone to stand in the straight line that lies between Hilary and the Presidency. Well, Obombast stood in the line between Killary and the Presidency, and survived — because Obomba was a Company man: CIA born and bred; also Obomba was prudent and took Killary on board his ship. But Trumpeter was a rank outsider, who appealed only to us Deplorables — as that 80% more on social media now confirms. Which explains the absolutely unprecedented MSM onslaught on Trump: no US President — not even Lincoln, not even FDR has been more befouled by the MSM than Trump has been. And Trump does not even deserve to be shat on in this unseemly manner; Lincoln and FDR deserved the scorn of the MSM because they were outstandingly good; but Trump is merely a run-of-the-mill POTUS who happened to beat the ageing AZC favourite because they had kept her in public view past her sell-by date.

  4. Rifkindsknuckle says

    makes it absolutely clear these claims are going to be used as a basis for fresh and probably draconian censorship which may see the end of any place on YouTube for opinions that even mildly question those sanctified “progressive narratives” of militarism, Russia-hate, endless war and global austerity.

    Would it not be a better ending advising your readership to avoid supporting (through clicks and traffic) such parasitic US companies such as google, youtube, facebook, twitter, whatsapp et al who are complicit in the destruction of social stability across Europe through their extremely aggressive tax avoidance schemes? Billions upon billions of euro siphoned out of Europe year after year all the while public health, transport and education infrastructure across the continent crumble to dust or is privatized, only accessible dependent on the size of your bank balance.

    The EU should follow Russia and China’s approach to these parasites. EU wide ban until every penny avoided across Europe is repaid back into the country of origin. See how fast the change their tune when they lose access to 500 million ‘customers’. Better yet, create and promote EU alternatives to these leeches.

    I can;t stand the guardian always shoving these US tax avoiding companies and their products down their readers throats. ”We asked google this week……………..why is the guardian so shit”.

    Please don’t follow suit Off-Guardian. Lets take the ”two birds, one stone” approach to these issues you raise above. No traffic = no need to worry what the fuck their algorithms are doing in the background.

    • Richard Wicks says

      I’m an engineer in Silicon Valley.

      Let me assure you that attempts at censorship will be circumvented in time. The only way to impose real censorship is to pass laws making certain speech illegal and that requires the complete suspension of the Constitution. All that will happen is corporations doing censorship, will lose users.

      Smart people realize that the point of discussion isn’t to necessarily draw people to your particular view, it’s to change your own viewpoint. If your beliefs can’t stand up to scrutiny and challenge, it’s because you’re probably wrong.

      In the early days of the Internet, it was just academics and students on it, and they FIERCELY argued with one another. If you think the decorum of the Internet of today is bad, you should have seen it back in 1993. I wouldn’t mind seeing the Internet segregated again into people who should just be watching television, and people that genuinely want to argue and discuss again – and that is what will happen with censorship.

  5. YouTube is owned by Google, the same outfit that was 100% behind Hillary Clinton for president, and that was accused of search engine bias in her favor (very hard to prove, but the allegation was at least made). So I really doubt that YouTube is favoring Trump–just look at Google’s political policies and you’ll see how unlikely this is.

  6. Fact: The self-proclaimed liberal wing of the bourgeoisie are just as hostile to democracy as their right-wing counterparts.

  7. bevin says

    The Guardian will not be happy until the simple charge that something which puts forward (or might be construed by a victim of paranoia to be advancing) a conspiracy theory (apart from the theory that there was a massive international private/public all embracing conspiracy to defeat St Hillary of Clinton in her bid to be the first female President to initiate a nuclear holocaust) will be enough to close the host site down and take all concerned in for questioning.
    Which may need to be of the enhanced variety.
    We have been warned.

  8. Neo-Pelagius says

    I’m mainly being recommended The Brittas Empire atm …

  9. Technocracy in terms of ‘algorithms’ has the plausible deniablity of intentions, and of course the plausible accusation.

    Fake news, biased coverage and control over what gets seen and how it is shown is all about controlling the narrative, gaining ‘mind-share’ and mind-manipulation. In this sense it is a war on our wholeness or sanity that seeks to trigger a divisive or split mind, through which to weaken, subvert and effectively control.

    I note Google’s apparent compliance on surface issues, but beneath the surface politics is the recreation and replacement of the mind by external ‘smart networks’ of management that in sum are the technocratic matrix of systems control – to which life is fitted (sacrificed?)

  10. Brutally Remastered says

    “Doubling down” an ugly and over-used term, but apposite. One would not want the very sources that have been discussing QANON or the veracity of claims of real (treasonous) collusion and other DNC crimes and those pending, gaining viewers. One would also not want any explanation nor conjecture regarding the recent ICBM “false alarms” or AMTRAK accidents.
    Thanks again, OffG.

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