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The Most Popular YouTube Videos About The Coronavirus Are Being Made In India -- And They're Full Of Hoaxes


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India is in the middle of a YouTube-powered coronavirus frenzy that could kill people. From a report: The most popular YouTube video in the world about the coronavirus was created by a channel called Wonderful Secrets of the World, which typically publishes Hindi-language videos about sports and cars, as well as roundups like "Top 5 Secret Places Hidden in Famous Locations" or "30 Amazing Facts About Human Body." The channel, the logo of which looks uncannily like that of Volkswagen, hides its subscriber count, but 16 of its videos have been viewed over a million times -- the most popular being the coronavirus explainer, which has been seen 13.6 million times as of Wednesday. Wonderful Secrets of the World isn't an outlier. It is the tip of a huge Indian YouTube iceberg of content about the outbreak. The disease has 75,280 confirmed cases, and 2,014 deaths, mostly in mainland China. Shared at high rates, these videos often combine basic facts about the novel coronavirus from Wuhan, China, with Indian nationalist propaganda and hearsay -- with serious real-life consequences. There are reports of a man in southeast India who had a urinary tract infection and killed himself on Feb. 10, mistakenly thinking he had the coronavirus. His son told local media he was watching a lot of videos about the virus online. "We told him that he did not have coronavirus, but he refused to let us near him. He told all the villagers to stay away. He would tell them that their kids would also end up contracting it if they came close to him," his son told reporters. Karen Rebelo, deputy editor for Boom, an Indian fact-checking organization that reported on the story, told BuzzFeed News it's extremely difficult to fact-check YouTube videos because often it's not a straightforward question of whether the content is true or false. "Most Indians coming online for the first time start by streaming YouTube videos because it's free," Rebelo said. She said that most fact-checking efforts in India are only being done in English and Hindi, so things are even more complicated for videos being created in regional languages. It's also hard to fact-check videos that mix truth and hoax freely together.

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