The digital revolution has brought with it many advantages, but one of the major plagues are click bait emails, spammy messages, unchecked ‘facts’ and disinformation. It’s happening up and down the political spectrum, across country lines and in all sorts of unexpected ways. How can those of us — who profess to have a sense of integrity — fight against this? Somehow, we need to up our game and do our part to hold these poor practitioners accountable for their actions.
Spreading false information
My 22-year-old son turned me on to an outlier phenomenon happening on YouTube, where most young people tend to hang out when listening to music. Essentially, this phenomenon involves putting up a very famous song (without rights) and then attributing the song — along with an image that stays up for the duration of the video — to the wrong artist. Outside of just promoting confusion, it is disrespectful of the artists involved. The ‘trick’ seems to be in finding and uploading a song that’s very famous and attributing it to another artist who is more famous than the original artist; the trick is in finding someone who is somewhat credible. Taking a one-hit wonder is probably a logical starting point as the artist’s name is often obscured over time. As I will document below, each of these posts is blatantly wrong. Where these videos are being viewed many millions of times, the ratings and comments suggest many people are being fooled and don’t do any proper fact checking. A commonality to all four videos below is that they were written before any Gen Zer was born (i.e. 1990). Another common thread to note in the comments: 2019 anyone?
Don’t Worry, Be Happy
At time of writing, this video on YouTube has reached nearly 130 million views since being posted in November 2011. Contrary to the title, the song, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” was written by Bobby McFerrin and released in September 1988. For starters, Bob Marley died in 1981. Note that there are over 29K comments and the song has been liked 655K times (thumbs down 38K, 5.5% of the votes). The ‘author’ of this dubious post has 121K subscribers. Couldn’t there be a way to reel in such glaring mistakes?
Killing Me Softly With Her Song
As some write, this one is killing me. Posted by a profile called “Frank Sinatra” (who has garnered 148K subscribers), this song, “Killing Me Softly” on YouTube has 80 million views so far. Published in April 2016, the post has just peaked over 10K comments, with 479K likes and 14K dislikes (3%). Presumably, that indicates that people are less offended by the mix-up between Sinatra and Como than a Marley song. You have to scroll down to Arthur Harrison’s comment made in 2018. to find a bona fide correction: ‘”Killing Me Softly with His Song” was composed by Charles Fox with lyrics by Norman Gimbel, written in collaboration with Lori Lieberman who recorded the song in late 1971. The most popular cover version was recorded by Roberta Flack in 1973. Frank Sinatra never recorded this song. The version here is by Perry Como, recorded in 1973.’ Harrison’s comment has a paltry 2.5K likes. I note that this isn’t the only “false news” Sinatra-Killing Me Softly video on YouTube. Here’s another one with over 2 million views. Meanwhile, this version of the Paul Anka song, “I Love You Baby“, shows Frank Sinatra in the title and using his face as the thumbnail — it’s achieved 54 million views since being published Jan 2017.
This song, Mrs Robinson, was not written or recorded by The Beatles or John Lennon. The song was written by Paul Simon and was released by Simon & Garfunkel in 1968. It was rendered forever famous after being included in the 1967 film, The Graduate. The label for this song on YouTube is wrong: The Beatles – Mrs Robinson, while the thumbnail image is of John Lennon. At time of writing, this video, which was uploaded in May 2010 by Yoyoman3 (just 1.7K subs), has accumulated more than 5 million views over 9 years. It has just 5K comments and, tellingly, has 14K likes and 7K dislikes (33% of total votes). The comments thread has a good amount of humor with suggestions for other pairings: Stairway to Heaven by Hendrix, Stayin’ Alive by Black Sabbath, Master of Puppets by 1Direction… Perhaps the source of this ‘error’ was this post on Last.FM. Maybe the large percentage of thumbs down ratings are the best indicator that this “mistake” is less tolerated. N.B. The song has been covered by a number of artists, including Frank Sinatra, the Lemonheads, and Bon Jovi. However, the Beatles never recorded a version of Mrs Robinson.
American PieAmerican Pie – Bob Dylan
This last video of American Pie was posted in June 2008 by Cronicsake (27K subs). Contrary to the image shown above, the song was not written or performed by the Nobel prize-winning Bob Dylan. It was written and performed by Don McLean. This video clip has been viewed 38.9 million times and has 155K likes to 9.7K dislikes (5.8% of total). It’s also had well over 9K comments. The YouTube post actually has the right title, “Don McLean – American Pie (Good quality),” and a corrected thumbnail (of Don McLean). The uploader, Cronicsake, acknowledges in the author notes: “Why the Bob Dylan image? It was a mistake. I downloaded the song in ~2006 from one of those programs that used to be popular back then. The name of the file with the song was “Bob Dylan – American Pie”, so I thought this was a Bob Dylan version. My bad. I was a young and pretty ignorant teenager at the time of upload so please accept my apology! Enjoy the song :).” So, of these 4 YouTube video posts, this would seem like a legitimate and honest mistake. To wit, there are fewer “angry” comments.
Conclusion – Music to my ears
You might be asking why the embedded images aren’t or can’t be corrected, even if the uploader wished to do so? Essentially, changing the image would mean having to start from scratch, losing all the data, comments and position in the algorithm. Having observed these specific videos over the last week, it’s evident that the numbers continue to rack up and the misinformation is being perpetuated. In a world of fake news and click bait, we all need to up our game. It was music to my ears to see a few factual corrections in the comments, but it seems that too many of us are prepared to roll over and let such ‘mistakes’ and spammy methods lie. At a minimum, we should be systematically downvoting these videos for their inaccuracy and upvoting the comments that are bringing hard facts (e.g. Harrison above). If we see inaccuracies, we too can participate in making the storyteller or author be held accountable.
Your thoughts? Please share if you enjoyed this post!