Podcast Corner: Down the YouTube rabbit hole

If you've ever been on a YouTube binge, mindlessly watching video after video, and wondered where exactly the clip recommendations are coming from, then the Rabbit Hole is for you.
Podcast Corner: Down the YouTube rabbit hole
PewDiePie  features in the Rabbit Hole podcast that delves into YouTube's algorithms.

If you've ever been on a YouTube binge, mindlessly watching video after video, and wondered where exactly the clip recommendations are coming from, then the Rabbit Hole is for you.

A podcast from the New York Times, presented by its tech columnist Kevin Roose, the seven episodes so far delve deep into YouTube's algorithm and literally tells us how someone in their teens/early 20s, can see their idealogy co-opted by 'fake news' and the alt-right.

It started for the directionless Caleb Cain whose five-year descent is told over the first three episodes that range in length between 20 and 40 minutes, with video game commentary videos on YouTube, soon gravitating to hours of Joe Rogan's podcast - it preaches free speech for all sides - and then, further on the dial, Stefan Molyneux and other questionable commentators. Along the way, Rabbit Hole explains internet stories such as Gamergate. By the end of Caleb's story, he's started his own leftist YouTube channel.

An interview with YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki on episode four, about how the site has tried to push trusted souces and banned the likes of Alex Jones from its platform, is eye-opening.

She explains at the end of the chat: "My focus on responsibility is probably one of the most important things I'll do in my life because I think we live at this time of tremendous change and so yes, we've had all these years of fun and gaming and cat videos but there are really important decisions to be made about what this future will hold and what will platforms be and how they'll operate in the future - and those rules haven't been written yet. We're in the process of writing them."

The podcast also chronicles the many controversies of YouTuber PewDiePie, including how the 2018 Christchurch shooter namedropped one of his viral catchphrases during a livestream of one of his killings. And as Donald Trump continues to rage on Twitter, Rabbit Hole offers a primer on QAnon, a conspiracy theory that has gathered steam in a cohort in the generation ahead of Caleb Cain.

So as these new media platforms grapple with an evolving, shifting tide, and as facts and science are questioned, Rabbit Hole feels like the essential podcast of this time. It's gripping throughout - and we literally don't know where the internet will take it next.

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