Ashley Landrum is an assistant professor of science communication at Texas Tech University. And her research is based on how cultural values influence our understanding of science. Most recently she’s been looking at the growth of flat Earth theory and how more and more people start believing it.
Amazingly, more people than ever believe in a flat Earth. Google searches for “flat earth” have grown massively over the past five years and flat Earth conventions have begun popping up all over the globe.
And this is where Landrum focused her research.
Landrum interviewed 30 people who attended one flat-Earth convention and found that all but one became flat Earthers after watching videos on YouTube.
She presented her research at an event run by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
While Landrum didn’t specifically blame YouTube for the rise in flat Earth followers, she does think that Google could be doing more to stop the misinformation of scientifically incorrect views and beliefs.
“There’s a lot of helpful information on YouTube but also a lot of misinformation,” she said, as reported by 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.”
Google has confirmed there’s more it could do to fight the spread of false knowledge on YouTube and, as recently as January, outline new plans created to push back.
“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 stupid and false claims about historical events like 9/11,” the YouTube team said, in a post describing new measures in the process of being implemented. The YouTube team admitted this would be a “gradual change”.
Interestingly Landrum called on scientists themselves to fight back this absurd theory by using YouTube as a platform to publish their own work.
“We don’t want YouTube to be full of videos saying here are all these reasons the Earth is flat,” she said. “We need other videos saying here’s why those reasons aren’t real and here’s a bunch of ways you can research it for yourself.”
No, you won’t find any such absurd video links here.