YouTube is behind the rise in flat earth believers, researcher says

A new study shows that YouTube is at least partly responsible for the rise in flat-Earthers, citing the plethora of misinformation on the video-sharing platform as one of the biggest reasons why people are rejecting scientific fact in favor of conspiracy theories.

Of the 30 people interviewed by Texas Tech University professor Asheley Landrum at a 2017 Flat Earth International Conference, 29 said they had changed their minds about Earth being a globe after watching conspiracy videos on YouTube.

Landrum, who presented her findings at this year’s annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, said that YouTube’s algorithm had also played a role in propagating the theory.

RELATED: The conspiracy theories of President Trump and his inner circle

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The conspiracy theories of President Trump and his inner circle
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The conspiracy theories of President Trump and his inner circle

Trump and the 'birther' claim

Trump has made remarks on multiple occasions in his past suggesting former President Barack Obama "doesn't have a birth certificate." Nearing the end of his campaign trail, Trump finally admitted in September 2016 that Obama "was born in the United States."

Here is a 2011 excerpt from his statement on the conspiracy theory surrounding the "birther" claim

"He doesn't have a birth certificate, or if he does, there's something on that certificate that is very bad for him. Now, somebody told me -- and I have no idea if this is bad for him or not, but perhaps it would be -- that where it says 'religion,' it might have 'Muslim.' And if you're a Muslim, you don't change your religion, by the way."

Trump and the wiretapping claim

On March 4, the president accused former President Barack Obama of wiretapping the phones at his New York home in Trump Tower in a series of Saturday morning tweets.

"I'd bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!," one tweet read.

FBI Director James Comey later renounced this claim at a rare public House Intelligence Committee hearing.

Trump: China created global warming

On November 6, 2012, Trump tweeted the following:

"The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive."

The issues of global warming and climate change have long been proved valid by the science community's vast majority.

Alex Jones' Infowars, Trump tie Sen. Ted Cruz's father to Kennedy assassination

An April 2016 article in Infowars -- a site affiliated with conspiracy theorist Alex Jones -- titled "WAS CRUZ’S FATHER LINKED TO THE JFK ASSASSINATION?" makes the case that Sen. Ted Cruz's father, Rafael Cruz, was linked to Lee Harvey Oswald, the man believed to have killed John F. Kennedy.

In May 2016, Trump brought up an Enquirer story featuring Cruz's father pictured with Oswald, saying, "I mean, what was he doing — what was he doing with Lee Harvey Oswald shortly before the death? Before the shooting? It’s horrible."

He brought the storyline up again one day after accepting the Republican presidential nomination in July 2016.

Trump: Obama "founded ISIS"

Trump touted his plan to "bomb the sh*t out of ISIS" many times while on the 2016 campaign stump -- and added to his ISIS rhetoric the claim that then-President Barack Obama "founded ISIS."

Trump outlined this claim in a Florida campaign speech:

"ISIS is honoring President Obama. He’s the founder of ISIS. He founded ISIS. I would say the co-founder would be Crooked Hillary Clinton."

Trump also suggested Obama was sympathetic to terrorists in June of 2016.

Trump suggests Justice Antonin Scalia was assassinated

"It's a horrible topic," Trump said of Justice Scalia's death during a radio interview with conservative host Michael Savage. At this point, Trump was entering a space in which Savage had already called for a Warren Investigation into Scalia's death -- the same type of investigation that looked into JFK's shooting. In that context, Trump continued his remarks, saying, "But they say they found a pillow on his face, which is a pretty unusual place to find a pillow. I can’t tell you what—I can’t give you an answer. You know, usually I like to give you answers. But I literally just heard it a little while ago. It’s just starting to come out now, as you know, Michael.”

Alex Jones on Hillary Clinton's mental state

On August 4, 2016, Alex Jones' Infowars published a video titled, "The Truth About Hillary's Bizarre Behavior," in which copy reads, "...Hillary’s conduct also strongly indicates she is a sociopath who has a total lack of empathy for other people."

Jones at one point in August 2016 commented on the system in which Trump would continually pick up talking points from his show, saying, "It is surreal to talk about issues here on air, and then word-for-word hear Trump say it two days later."

Trump: 2016 election is "rigged"

Weeks before 2016 Election Day, Trump appeared on FOX News with Sean Hannity, discussing how the election is rigged because of the "1.8 million people" who vote, even though they're dead.

“You have 1.8 million people who are dead, who are registered to vote, Trump said. "And some of them absolutely vote. Now, tell me how they do that.

After he was elected president, Trump also claimed that there was "serious voter fraud" in the 2016 election, and promised a major investigation into such occurrence.

Roger Stone: Chelsea Clinton needed plastic surgery to hide identity of real father

Longtime Trump friend and political adviser Roger Stone details in his book, "The Clintons' War on Women," that Chelsea Clinton needed "four plastic surgeries" to cover up the identity of her real father, who Stone claims is former Associate Attorney General Webb Hubbell.

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“There’s a lot of helpful information on YouTube but also a lot of misinformation,” Landrum said, per The Guardian. “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.”

In a January blog post, YouTube announced that it would be “taking a closer look at how we can reduce the spread of content that comes close to ― but doesn’t quite cross the line of ― violating our Community Guidelines.”

“To that end, we’ll begin reducing recommendations of borderline content and content that could misinform users in harmful ways ― such as videos promoting a phony miracle cure for a serious illness, claiming the earth is flat or making blatantly false claims about historic events like 9/11,” the post said.

HuffPost contacted YouTube for comment, but hasn’t yet heard back.

While Landrum said that believing the Earth was flat was “not necessarily harmful,” the idea often came “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,” she said.

As a potential antidote, Landrum suggested that scientists create their own videos and upload them to YouTube as a way of educating those seeking more information.

“There are a lot of people out there who are questioning, who are curious, who want to understand ― and we can’t let the only information that’s out there that’s accessible from YouTube be coming from conspiracy theorists,” she said according to The Independent.

H/T The Guardian

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.
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