YouTube Conspiracy Videos Rake in Big Bucks; Plus: Brien Foerster Plans Colorado Seminar on Lost Civilizations and Elongated Skulls
It’s been a bit of a slow week, and I must confess that I have rather little to talk about today. One thing that is worth mentioning, though, is an article in the forthcoming issue of Newsweek in which the magazine analyzes the potential risk that fringe history and conspiracy theory videos pose to YouTube. The Alphabet company site is overflowing with conspiracy videos, and Newsweek attributes this less to public belief in conspiracies than to the economic incentives YouTube created to produce conspiracy videos in a desperate bid to garner eyeballs and thus ad dollars with the most extreme content, using the example of a video by Shane Dawson suggesting that space aliens were responsible for the disappearance of a Malaysian airliner a few years ago:
…the site incentivizes content creators to wander close to the extreme-views edge because they entice users to click. That video by Dawson about the disappeared plane garnered 8 million views, likely earning him—and Alphabet—thousands of dollars. AlgoTransparency, a website that tracks what videos YouTube recommends to visitors, notes that searching for the phrases “Is the Earth flat or round?” or “vaccine facts” in February led to videos claiming to show proof the Earth is flat or evidence that vaccines cause autism, respectively, about eight times more often than videos without a conspiracy bent on these subjects. When Veleski began producing conspiracy-type videos, he received more views—and more money—for them than for those focused on alternative medicine and health topics.
And we’re not talking chump change, either. One Australian conspiracy theorist earns $5,400 per month spouting conspiracy theories, while another earns $7,500 per month with fake conspiracy videos—though it’s not clear how many of his viewers understand that they are jokes.
YouTube is a cesspool. Every time I go there, even after signing out and clearing my browser, anything I look for quickly descends into bizarre and frequently racist conspiracy theories. It’s even worse than the History Channel for any historical topic, since History is confined by standards and practices, while YouTube videos are limited only by the site’s patchwork of prohibitions on illegal or grossly unethical conduct. And what is worse is that many in the audience can’t distinguish between a conspiracy theorist’s YouTube video and a professionally produced documentary.
Newsweek also reported that Alphabet, the parent of Google as well as YouTube, understands that they might lose viewers and thus revenue if they can’t control the amount of fake material on YouTube. “Our brands may also be negatively affected by the use of our products or services to disseminate information that is deemed to be misleading,” according to the company’s 2017 annual report. As a result, YouTube is taking steps to limit the impact of conspiracy theory videos. This is why, incidentally, conspiracy theorists like David Wilcock and L. A. Marzulli are so angry about YouTube’s policy changes. They’ve geared their entire business model to producing outrageous claims that can be monetized through advertising and delivered to viewers through high ranking search results.
The other thing I want to mention ties in since Brien Foerster is a YouTube personality himself and uses the site to promote his paranormal tours of Peru. Foerster is busy setting up an “All Day Ancient Civilizations Seminar” in Boulder, Colo., for June 9, at a price of $55 per ticket, and just take a look at the topics, as given on his website, with the originally syntax and grammar intact:
The Inca and Pharaohs did not create megalithic works such as the Great Pyramid.
We’ve seen that the Egyptians left a text recording the efforts made under Khufu to build the Great Pyramid. The Spanish watched native Peruvians hauling megalithic blocks—though Foerster is, on a technicality, right that the “Inca” didn’t claim to have built many of the sites, since some had been built by pre-Inca Andean cultures. Akhenaten’s skull—or one believed to belong to him--exists and is seemingly not artificially elongated but the apparent result of a genetic condition. We could go on, but the point is clear: Foerster sells mysteries without much regard for the truth, nor is he much interested in keeping up with his supposed field of expertise.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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