Is YouTube implementing eye-contact requirements for its ads?

By June 27, 2024 Satire, Technology

This post on X went viral recently with over 18 million views. It appears to show a screenshot of the YouTube app with a message over an ad that reads: “Please maintain eye contact for the duration of the ad. Since you looked away, you’ll need to rewatch from the beginning.”While the post makes no actual claim about this being either a planned or current feature on YouTube, many responses seem to believe that this does indeed depict a new feature designed to ensure that ads are fully watched.

Screenshots of this original post have been re-shared on  X, TikTok, and Instagram – garnering heated and anxious responses, with many expressing the intent to delete the YouTube app or to stop using the platform altogether. Others expressed anger over Tech companies abusing new technologies and infringing on user privacy.However, while the re-shared screenshots often lack context, a quick look at the original post and poster immediately suggests to us that the image is satirical and digitally altered.The original poster Soren Iverson has a history of, according to him, making “deranged interfaces” that depict hypothetical integrations or features in apps and other digital platforms. For instance – a Google Meet “purgatory” option for time-wasters and ads in YouTube comment sections. The viral image being reshared was posted on his feed as one of many such satirical interfaces.While YouTube has not issued a comment on this particular image, there have been no other reports of mandatory eye-contact requirements for ads, nor any announcements of anything remotely similar from YouTube or any other sources. Other fact-checking platforms have also conducted similar fact-checks and confirmed that no such feature exists.

Therefore, we label this claim satire. While not made to intentionally mislead or spread a false narrative, it has been used to do so by other posters on different platforms through the omission of the images’ satirical origins.

Given the growing ubiquity of eye-tracking prediction technology (used in digital marketing and user analysis) it does make sense that many would be disposed to believing the claim and taking it seriously.

Fears over privacy and use of technology by tech platforms are an easily exploitable issue. While this claim in particular is easily debunked and perhaps even humorous, we should also be alert to future claims which make use of rapid technological developments (and satire about these developments) to stir up controversy and anger for more nefarious purposes.

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