If you feel as though there are a growing number of people online who think the world is flat (a peculiar conspiracy theory that ignores centuries of evidence that the planet is actually round), you might not be wrong.
According to a new study, the alarming growth of the number of people who think the Earth is flat is directly tied to the growth of conspiracy theories on YouTube. Researchers claim that the ‘wrongful’ idea is already in many people’s heads and YouTube is much to blame than anyone else.
Speaking at the annual gathering of flat-Earthers, the research team from the Texas Tech University said that the demographic who believe that the Earth is actually flat are usually those who spend maximum time on YouTube watching similar conspiracy videos. The research was led by Dr. Asheley Landrum who said:
There’s a lot of helpful information on YouTube but also a lot of misinformation. Their algorithms make it easy to end up going down the rabbit hole, by presenting information to people who are going to be more susceptible to it.
Believing the Earth is flat in of itself is not necessarily harmful, but it comes packaged with a distrust in institutions and authority more generally. We want people to be critical consumers of the information they are given, but there is a balance to be had […] We don’t want YouTube to be full of videos saying here are all these reasons the Earth is flat. We need other videos saying here’s why those reasons aren’t real and here’s a bunch of ways you can research it for yourself.
YouTube’s algorithms are to blame
YouTube’s algorithms show a string of additional conspiracy video when one views a similar item. This leads the creators to create more conspiring content leading to ‘false beliefs’. The effectiveness and reliability of social network’s algorithms have been questioned before, with some research showing that it can be hard to break out the string of recommendation to find content that offers different points of view.