Algorithmic Media Observatory

Ontario Elections 2018
YouTube Recommendation RankFlow

What videos does YouTube recommend about Ontario party leaders? In the first study of its kind, we have identified the most recommended videos by YouTube for the pre-writ period from April 3 to May 8, 2018. Data was collected through tools developed by Guillaume Chaslot and the Algo Transparency project.

After watching any video on YouTube, the platform automatically recommends other videos based on a ranking produced by a deep learning neural network. Like search results, recommendations are a judgment made by a platform about the relevance of content. In recent months, The Guardian, The Washington Post and the New York Times have raised concerns about YouTube’s judgment. Its recommendation system might promote harmful or disturbing content particularly on YouTube Kids, their platform for young audiences. Data + Society, a US-based research centre, has also observed YouTube recommending extreme content based on benign queries.

We cannot know for sure what has caused these recommendations. Likely the recommendations are a combination of public opinion, algorithmic design and possibly the work of partisan communities amplifying certain voices (also called media manipulation). This study prototypes a political discoverability audit, a tool to assess what content is being recommended online before and during an election, that has been called for in the lead-up to elections. These audits could become an important tool in understanding the role of social media platforms in elections.

Key Points

YouTube on average recommends negative videos for Kathleen Wynne, half of top videos recommended were negative.

Most recommended video entitled “Youngest Ever Ontario MPP Destroys Premier Wynne” (1,395 recommendations), second most recommended video “Doug Ford Laughs Off Smug Leftist Avi Lewis”(977 recommendations)

TVO has uploaded the most videos recommended by YouTube (7 recommendations), part of the overall popularity of mainstream media outlets.

Top 10 YouTube Recommendations


YouTube Recommendations Over Time

Methodology