YouTube Mistakenly Tags Notre Dame Fire Video As '9/11 Conspiracy'

Demonstrating just how poorly designed its algorithms intended to filter out 'conspiratorial' content can be, particularly when reacting in real time to a breaking news event, YouTube has apologized after its recently launched conspiracy-filtering feature accidentally tagged a livestream of the devastating fire at Notre Dame cathedral as a '9/11 conspiracy' video.

As Bloomberg pointed out, shortly after the fire broke out, several news organizations launched  live streams of the horrific blaze on YouTube. 

Below a stream from France24 and several other channels, a box of text appeared bearing a snippet from Encyclopedia Britannica about the 9/11 attacks, indicating that the footage had been mistakenly labeled a 9/11 conspiracy video.

Notre Dame

YouTube introduced the text boxes last year, but in recent months has taken steps to suppress content it deems 'conspiratorial', filtering them out of search results for related topics to prevent the content from corrupting the minds of unsuspecting users.

A YouTube spokesman apologized for the error and said these labels are assigned by algorithms that occasionally make mistakes.

"We are deeply saddened by the ongoing fire at the Notre-Dame cathedral," said a YouTube spokesman. "These panels are triggered algorithmically and our systems sometimes make the wrong call. We are disabling these panels for live streams related to the fire."

The mistake was widely mocked on Twitter.

And as one reporter astutely reported, YouTube's new tool meant to filter out false information is doing the exact opposite.

But sure - let's continue to allow tech firms to decide what information is fit for public consumption. Because clearly they're doing such a great job.