YouTube might be the world’s biggest repository of news, political information, and generally accessible knowledge. Unfortunately, it also might be the world’s biggest repository of garbage, fiction, and propaganda.
While some advocate ignoring the good to avoid the bad, there are ways that you can find trustworthy political content on YouTube – if you know how to ask the right questions.
If you know your way around YouTube, you might already know how to find “news.” At the banner at the top of the home page, you can scroll through recommended topics, and News is usually one of them. News is also one of the shortcuts in the column on the far left of the home page under Explore.
YouTube recommends content based on the content you watch, and it might make certain assumptions about your political views based on the music you listen to, the game playthroughs you watch, or whatever else you’re up to on the site. It may well be that your taste in music is a lot more conservative than your taste in political leadership.
If you access YouTube again through a private browser window, you might be surprised to see how the site’s news recommendations for you have changed. Still, it’s worth exploring how to find your own news rather than just taking what YouTube offers you.
Question Everything You See on YouTube
Because just about anyone can post just about anything to YouTube, finding trustworthy content means asking questions—both about the content you want to find and about the content you already come across. We’ll show you how to use this on YouTube, but these rules apply to other sites and media types too.
The headline and description of a video can often give you a good idea of what the poster wanted to do with the video. While print journalism may have invented punchy headlines, YouTube elevated the clickbait title into an art form. Most of the time, if the video has an agenda, you’ll be able to tell right away.
That’s not all you can tell from a thumbnail. YouTube also tells how old a video is and whether it was uploaded live. While that might not matter much for some videos, if you’re looking for something like a senate hearing or a presidential debate, knowing that something was streamed live can make a big difference.
2. Who Posted the Content?
A lot of government agencies, broadcasting groups like CSPAN or PBS, and established news outlets have YouTube channels. Maybe that’s the kind of channel you trust, and maybe it’s not. If you aren’t familiar with the individual or organization that posted a video, check them out. This might be as simple as clicking their profile to visit their page.
Some particularly polarized outlets have a description that will immediately let you know where they stand and what their intentions are. Others are more subtle and try to seem more balanced than they actually are. If in doubt, their channels’ About page usually links to a more complete website where you can learn more about them.
You probably know how to follow pages that you like. But did you know that you can effectively block YouTube pages that you don’t like? That can keep a lot of rubbish from showing up on your quest for quality content.
3. Where Was the Content Posted?
YouTube is fairly unique as a news source in that you can find incredibly local news as well as national and international news. Sometimes, an event that happens in someone’s backyard makes the national news. You might first hear about it from a big news outlet, but you can go on YouTube and see what locals have to say.
Local groups are often able to dedicate more time and resources to local stories, so you may find their coverage more comprehensive than that of larger outlets. On the other hand, finding news sources outside of your home country can help to get a new perspective on national events.
If you live in the United Kingdom, how does the United States see the recent issues with keeping a Prime Minister? If you live in the United States, how does Canada view the endless arguments over the debt ceiling?
You don’t even have to stay limited to your language group. You can change the audio language of any YouTube video to make even more varied content accessible to you.
“Trustworthy” Content on YouTube
What makes content trustworthy? That’s up to you. How do you find YouTube content that you consider trustworthy? By asking questions about what the content is created to do, who created it, how, and where.