Study blames YouTube for spread of Flat Earth movement

Shawn Knight

TechSpot Staff
Staff member

YouTube is being blamed for the sharp rise in the number of people who believe the Earth is flat.

Researchers from Texas Tech University attended the world’s largest gathering of Flat Earthers in 2017 and 2018. During the conferences, interviews were conducted with 30 attendees that revealed a pattern regarding their beliefs.

Of the 30 people interviewed, all but one said they had not considered the Earth to be flat two years ago but changed their views after watching videos supporting the idea on YouTube. The other person learned of the idea after his daughter and son-in-law – who had seen Flat Earth videos on YouTube – told him about it.

Lead researcher Asheley Landrum presented her findings at the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C., this past weekend. Landrum said YouTube’s 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.”

YouTube in January said it was taking steps to reduce recommendations of “borderline” content that comes close to – but doesn’t quite violate – its community guidelines, like videos claiming the Earth is flat and those promoting miracle cures for grave illnesses.

Lead image courtesy Amanda Carden via Shutterstock

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psycros

TS Evangelist
This and any anti-vax crap should just be deleted on the spot from YouTube and social media. Stop giving these morons a forum to project from.
Should we also delete anything related to to other unproven science such as the idea that humans are the main drivers of climate change? What about macro-evolution, proof of which has never been observed either in the fossil record or in a lab? I have a different idea: why not let all ideas compete equally? When you attempt to suppress free speech you're only going to convince those who are being suppressed that their right and the powers-that-be fear the truth. You don't get anything good from going down that path. Its important to understand that a lot of the public's growing mistrust is due to the increasing amount of control that governments and industries have exerted over science. In a world where Monsanto has the influence get natural farming outlawed, people have the right to be very skeptical about the official line regarding GMOs. We need more free exchange of ideas, not less. Same goes for transparency. We communicate over systems that are fully wiretapped while those who control those networks maintain their privacy and answer to no one. That's exactly the future Orwell predicted.
 
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wiyosaya

TS Evangelist
This and any anti-vax crap should just be deleted on the spot from YouTube and social media. Stop giving these morons a forum to project from.
Should we also delete anything related to to other unproven science such as the idea that humans are the main drivers of climate change? What about macro-evolution, proof of which has never been observed either in the fossil record or in a lab? I have a different idea: why not let all ideas compete equally? When you attempt to suppress free speech you're only going to convince those who are being suppressed that their right and the powers-that-be fear the truth. You don't get anything good from going down that path.
(y) (Y)Absolutely. If someone is not smart enough to figure out what the truth is, that's not on the dolts posting videos like this. Questioning everything has always been prudent.

And, IMO, we certainly don't want government, or any other entity, for that matter, regulating "truth".

The "I saw it on youtub so it must be true" excuse does not cut it, IMO.
 

gusticles41

TS Evangelist
Should we also delete anything related to to other unproven science such as the idea that humans are the main drivers of climate change? What about macro-evolution, proof of which has never been observed either in the fossil record or in a lab? I have a different idea: why not let all ideas compete equally? When you attempt to suppress free speech you're only going to convince those who are being suppressed that their right and the powers-that-be fear the truth. You don't get anything good from going down that path. Its important to understand that a lot of the public's growing mistrust is due to the increasing amount of control that governments and industries have exerted over science. In a world where Monsanto has the influence get natural farming outlawed, people have the right to be very skeptical about the official line regarding GMOs. We need more free exchange of ideas, not less. Same goes for transparency. We communicate over systems that are fully wiretapped while those who control those networks maintain their privacy and answer to no one. That's exactly the future Orwell predicted.
Yo man, I'm strictly targeting flat Earth and anti-vax here. Not free speech and sharing LOGICAL, HELPFUL, NON-HAZARDOUS ideas.
 
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Nobina

TS Evangelist
Are you really achieving anything by removing these videos from YouTube? People who are stupid enough to believe in this will just go from YouTube to some other place and discuss it there. I prefer to let them voice their opinion and make themselves look like *****s to everyone than to silence them.
 

Cycloid Torus

Stone age computing - click on the rock below..
Aw, shucks... and I had figured it was all Sir Terry Pratchett's fault. How could I be so wrong?!?

I guess we have to wait on further proofs of the four elephants and the giant space faring turtle. NASA where art thou?
 
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Uncle Al

TS Evangelist
LOL ..... condemning free speech? Even those anti-vaccine people should be heard. Being able to see and hear those we disagree with is the foundation of debate and discord, two of the principles upon which free speech was popularized. Even the ***** in the White House deserves to be heard ..... oh darn, there I am exercising my free speech rights ..... sigh .....
 

mrtraver

TS Evangelist
I don't mind the flat-Earthers; they are harmless, and, if they truly believe it rather than just joining the current fad, either ignorant or stupid. But the anti-vax, homeopathic, and snake-oil miracle cures truly can cause harm. I'd like them to at least be branded with a permanent "satire" or "borderline" watermark or something.
 

brucek

TS Maniac
Rather than censor it, I'd rather YouTube just put it adjacent to high quality content showing how ridiculous it is. Like for example actual pictures taken from space.

People are much more susceptible to being misled by ideas they've never heard before, vs. ideas they've been exposed to along with strong explanations of why the ideas ever held sway and how they were disproven.
 

MaXtor

TS Evangelist
Platinum
Are flat-earthers hurting anyone? Mainstream science says the universe has more planets than the earth has grains of sand. You can't even fathom how insignificant we are. From what I can tell, flat-earthers just want humankind and earth to be the most significant.

Either way, all ideas (good or bad) should be allowed to be discussed.
 
No censors, no bans, no quality labeling system on Youtube, please. That requires someone to draw an arbitrary line in the sand somewhere and say "nothing beyond this line." Just who the hell gets to make that decision, eh?

I understand deleting videos which explicitly are a call to violence against people or groups but outside of that seems to border on censorship.

Flat earthers do no harm, they're just funny and yes, anti-vaxxers are doing actual harm to people other than themselves by reducing herd immunity but there are other ways to counteract this type of misinformation than banning on a single public-sharing website.
 

Reachable

TS Evangelist
LOL ..... condemning free speech? Even those anti-vaccine people should be heard. Being able to see and hear those we disagree with is the foundation of debate and discord, two of the principles upon which free speech was popularized. Even the ***** in the White House deserves to be heard ..... oh darn, there I am exercising my free speech rights ..... sigh .....
You are damn right!
 
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captaincranky

TechSpot Addict
I guess we have to wait on further proofs of the four elephants and the giant space faring turtle. NASA where art thou?
Well, since we all know NASA faked the US moon landings, It would child's play for them to fake a round earth :eek:

In fact, the easily available Adobe Photoshop has a tool to project flat photos onto solid shaped objects.

I'll tell you something else, since the earth really is flat, Greenland's size is correct on those maps our school systems pretend are "Mercator projections"

So yes kidz, the earth is flat, and Greenland really is that big. So there...:p

PS: I'll tell you something else. If you set your digital camera's white balance to "daylight", light with tungsten incandescent lamps, then slightly underexpose, you can make any sandy area look orange. So much for these mars probe hoaxes as well. (You just have to weed the area before you shoot. Plant life is a dead giveaway you're still on earth).
 
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Reachable

TS Evangelist
I suspect that for most flat earthers the stance is, at its core, a symbolic act of rebellion rather than an intellectual conviction. Tolerate it.

Intolerance of symbolic acts of rebellion can escalate into something deadly. It has happened.

And when the resistance is actually based on knowledge and reason (as is the case with many vaccine resisters) and the reaction to that resistance exaggerates it by framing it as a threat, you're standing on a powder keg where everyone stands to lose freedoms that they take for granted.

Do not try to forcibly vaccinate ANYONE.
 

Underdog

TS Addict
When I read this discussion about banning flat earth believers from spreading their mantra because the concept is scientifically unsound I immediately thought about religion. No one appears to be trying to stop people spreading "the word". I wonder why not.
 

wiyosaya

TS Evangelist
Because religion can not be disproven. And there is a reason for that.
As I see it, there is more evidence out there for the scientific version of how the Earth was created than there is in creation myths from any religion. In the latter, acceptance of the myth requires acceptance of "word."
 
And when the resistance is actually based on knowledge and reason (as is the case with many vaccine resisters) and the reaction to that resistance exaggerates it by framing it as a threat, you're standing on a powder keg where everyone stands to lose freedoms that they take for granted.
Vaccine resistance is not based on knowledge and reason. Vaccine resistance is based on ignorance and misinformation.
 

cliffordcooley

TS Redneck
As I see it, there is more evidence out there for the scientific version of how the Earth was created than there is in creation myths from any religion. In the latter, acceptance of the myth requires acceptance of "word."
Yet you can't conceive the notion they are both one in the same.
 
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