YouTube incorrectly tags clips of Notre Dame fire with 9/11 attacks

YouTube fact-check algorithm incorrectly tags live broadcast of Notre Dame fire with details of the 9/11 terror attack

  • YouTube accidentally tagged the Notre Dame fire with details of the 9/11 attacks 
  • Google-owned company linked footage of the blaze to New York terror outrage
  • Fact-checking algorithm blamed for error in connecting the collapsing towers

A YouTube fact-check feature which is meant to tackle misinformation accidentally tagged live broadcasts of a fire engulfing Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris with details about the 9/11 terror attacks.

The blaze erupted in the UNESCO world heritage landmark in the French capital Monday, sending its spire and roof crashing to the ground as flames and clouds of smoke billowed into the sky.

The fire, which at one point threatened the entire edifice, was brought under control early on Tuesday about nine hours after it broke out.

News outlets began live-streaming broadcasts of the fire on YouTube, but below some of the clips an unusual text box popped up – an entry from the Encyclopedia Britannica about the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States. 

The live broadcast on YouTube by broadcaster France 24 was tagged with an Encyclopedia Britannica entry about the 2001 terror attacks on the Twin Towers in New York 

In those attacks, Al-Qaeda militants hijacked two passenger planes and flew them into the towers of the World Trade Center in New York, causing them to collapse, while a third hijacked jet smashed into the Pentagon. Some 3,000 people were killed.

But the algorithm designed to combat fake news connected the collapsing spire of Notre Dame with the Twin Towers in New York. 

Social media reported seeing the same link between rolling footage of the Notre Dame blaze to the 9/11 terror attacks on the YouTube channels of France 24, CBS and ABC.

A spokesman for YouTube, which is owned by Google, said the text box feature had been disabled for live streams related to the fire.

A spokesman said: ‘These panels are triggered algorithmically and our systems sometimes make the wrong call. We are deeply saddened by the ongoing fire at the Notre Dame Cathedral.’

The 9/11 terror attacks on New York were linked to the collapsing spire of Notre Dame last night by Google’s ‘fake news’ algorithm 

Smoke and flames could be seen rising during the fire at the landmark Notre Dame Cathedral in central Paris last night 

The feature, which also links to other outside sources such as Wikipedia, was introduced last year after YouTube faced intense criticism over videos containing misleading and extreme content.

The panels are supposed to combat misleading videos about well-known events – such as the first successful manned landing on the moon – by presenting the true facts, in a bid to stop the spread of conspiracy theories.

YouTube, Facebook and Twitter came under fire last month after a horrific video of a gunman’s deadly rampage at two New Zealand mosques was circulated on the sites.

The Christchurch massacre, in which 50 people were killed, was live-streamed on Facebook, which moved to block the footage. But it was then shared repeatedly on the other two sites.

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