YouTube headquarters in San Bruno, California.

Enlarge / YouTube headquarters in San Bruno, California. (credit: JasonDoiy | Getty)

In The New York Times, reporters Max Fisher and Amanda Taub explain how YouTube propelled the career of controversial Brazilian politician Jair Bolsonaro. Before his election as Brazil's president, they write, Bolsonaro "had long used the platform to post hoaxes and conspiracies."

Ostensibly, YouTube's recommendation algorithms are politically neutral. However, they're optimized to boost "engagement," and in practice that means promoting videos with extremist and conspiratorial points of view. In Brazil, that has meant bringing a cadre of far-right social media stars to prominence, ultimately helping them gain power in national politics.

According to the Times, Brazilians are also increasingly turning to "Dr. YouTube"—relying on YouTube videos rather than conventional professionals for medical advice.

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