Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Alex Jones of Infowars, conducts a news conference outside a Senate (Select) Intelligence Committee hearing in Dirksen Building where Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO, and Jack Dorsey, Twitter CEO, were testifying on the influence of foreign operations on social media on September 5, 2018.
As the spread of misinformation online was causing public angst following the election of Donald Trump, YouTube was working on a proposal that could have made conspiracy theorist Alex Jones one of its highest-paid creators, according to Bloomberg.
Under the proposal, known as “Project Bean” or “Boil The Ocean,” YouTube would pay creators based on how many viewers watched their videos and for how long, rather than based on the ads their videos hosted, Bloomberg reported. It was meant to benefit content creators with large audiences and provocative topics, and would have helped characters like Jones, the founder of InfoWars, whose hateful conspiracy theories have scared off advertisers.
YouTube management was pursuing the effort in 2017 after the election of Trump, while at the same time company employees were expressing concern about the extreme nature of some of the site’s most watched videos.
YouTube parent company Google did not immediately return a request for comment. A spokesperson declined to comment on the project to Bloomberg, but told the publication that “generally extreme content does not perform well on the platform.”
YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki pitched Project Bean to Google’s leadership team in October 2017, according to Bloomberg, but Google CEO Sundar Pichai ultimately rejected it. Pichai reportedly believed the model could amplify the filter bubble issue that was already troubling YouTube and other platforms.
Jones, who is known for pushing the inaccurate theory that the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre were child actors, ultimately was booted from YouTube in August. But YouTube continues to struggle to keep conspiracies off the site as well as with violent and graphic content. At the end of 2018, YouTube said it removed 7.85 million videos that violated its standards between July and September.