Investigative group Project Veritas secretly filmed Earnest Pettie, the Brand and Diversity Curation Lead at YouTube, who said he works “on a team that does provide some human inputs into a lot of the machinery of YouTube.” This would mean that videos from specific news sources could be made to appear at the top of search results.
Petite explained how YouTube’s so-called news carousel is formed: “It’s above the search results, so at the very least, we can say this shelf of videos from news partners is legitimate news because we know that these are legitimate news organizations.”
“People are searching for a topic that our systems know is a ‘newsy’ topic, so let’s give them videos that we know to be newsy because we know we have these news partnerships.”
“In very rare cases we will try to make up to the fact that something isn’t in the trending tab,” he admitted. “Use some kind of intervention to… encourage the thing to be there, basically.”
In the recording Pettie also says Nick Dudich, audience strategy editor for the New York Times, is “one of the people I think who has more knowledge about YouTube as a platform than probably anyone else that I know.”
Speaking with a member of Project Veritas, Dudich said that he placed a negative report about Facebook in a spot where he knew it wouldn’t draw much attention, while bragging about using his Silicon Valley friendships to make videos trend.
“We actually just did a video about Facebook negatively, and I chose to put it in a spot that I knew wouldn’t do well,” Dudich said in the secretly filmed conversation.
Dudich claimed that his friends in Silicon Valley helped NYT videos trend, while saying he doesn’t want the NYT to know about his connections, according to Project Veritas.
“Let’s say something ends up on the YouTube front page, the New York Times freaks out about it, but they don’t know it’s just because my friends curate the front page. So, it’s like, a little bit of mystery you need in any type of job to make it look like what you do is harder than what it is,” Dudich says in the recording.
The video released Wednesday is the latest in a Project Veritas series called “American Pravda,” aimed at the US mainstream media. The installment released Tuesday also featured recordings of Dudich, in which he claims he worked for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign to counter the “threat” of Trump and that he did not join the Times to “be objective.”
It is impossible to assess the credibility of Dudich’s claims, however, as he also claimed that former FBI Director James Comey was his godfather, and that he used to participate in Antifa activities on behalf of the FBI.
Dudich admitted this was not true after Project Veritas interviewed his father, who said he didn’t even know Comey. It was “a good story,” Dudich said when asked why he lied.
In response to the Tuesday video, a New York Times spokeswoman Danielle Rhoades Ha said that Dudich was a “recent hire in a junior position” who appeared to have “violated [the newspaper’s] ethical standards and misrepresented his role.”
“In his role at The Times, he was responsible for posting already published video on other platforms and was never involved in the creation or editing of Times videos. We are reviewing the situation now,” Rhoades Ha said.
James O’Keefe, who founded Project Veritas in 2010, has released a number of controversial undercover videos, including one with CNN political commentator Van Jones this summer. Jones accused O’Keefe of editing the video in such a way as to take his words out of context and create a “hoax.”
In the Veritas video Jones was recorded saying the investigation into Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 election was “a big nothing-burger.” Jones said the missing context was that he said Democrats couldn’t use it to impeach Trump, even if the allegations were true.