Misleading titles and thumbnails of YouTube videos

Many YouTube videos with misleading titles and thumbnails have recently trended over social media platforms, particularly on YouTube.

YouTubers are using the tactics of employing misleading and false titles and thumbnails in their videos to grab people’s attention and compel them to watch their videos.

HaqCheck debunked such videos in June 2022. They were found on the video-sharing social media platform. 

HaqCheck came across a YouTube video that premiered on July 23 with a thumbnail and title that reads “TPLF hijacked a plane”.

The entire content of the video was examined. However, the video explains that TPLF blocked humanitarian aid flights to Mekelle. It doesn’t state that TPLF recently hijacked a plane.

The video tells that TPLF denied the landing of a plane in Mekelle. There is no connection between the thumbnail and title of the video and its actual content.

Therefore, HaqCheck rendered the video MISLEADING due to the absence of relevance between the thumbnail/title and the content.

Again, on June 17 a video emerged on YouTube with a thumbnail having a title claiming the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF)  stated it is not interested in holding negotiations with the federal government of Ethiopia.

Though the thumbnail and the title of the video report that TPLF has no interest in negotiation, the content of the video explains the five preconditions set by TPLF for the supposed negotiation.

The title and thumbnail say that TPLF announced it doesn’t want negotiation while the content states TPLF presented five preconditions for negotiation.

HaqCheck, therefore, rated the video MISLEADING as there is no coherence between the title/thumbnail of the YouTube video and its content.

Conflict and violence

Conflict and violence across the country have still been a source of disinformation dissemination and controversies. Here are some examples of such claims that emerged in the context of these conflicts and ethnic violence.

The conflicts that have prompted the circulation of false information are the armed conflict between the government and the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), which is addressed by the government as Shane.

A Facebook page shared a post on June 24, 2022, captioned, “OLA and GLF [Gambella Liberation Front], two militant groups fighting the Ethiopian government, have engaged in fierce combat. Be aware that the two military forces have entered the capital of the Gambella region which they were in the past week And take the attack on the military camps.”

HaqCheck cross-checked the post and found out that the image was shared previously on a Facebook page with a caption, “Campaign Alula Abanega demonstrates how the struggle in Tigray has raised the status of our heroes’ by one level.” The second image was found on a website called OLAcommunique.com on Oct 20, 2021, in an article about OLA’s operation update #13. The article details the claimed victory of OLA in the Bule Hora, Gumi Eldalo, and Saba Boru districts. The image is used in the article with the caption, “destroyed patrol vehicle in Bule Hora”. Therefore, the post was rendered False.

The other conflict that exacerbated disinformation was the military campaign conducted by the government against an armed group called Fano in the Amhara Regional State.

HaqCheck came across and debunked a claim that government forces destroyed the properties of Zemene Kasse’s [a Fano leader] mother with fire amid the government’s operation against Fano armed group.

Nonetheless, the image’s inspection showed it doesn’t prove the claim. HaqCheck found the image alongside the other three posted previously on Jan 23 on Twitter captioned in Afaan Oromo, “These pictures show the damage the armed forces, who came here crossing the Nile, caused on the properties of Oromo farmers in Amuruu district of Horroo Guduruu Region.”

The third factor of disinformation eminent in the month of June is violence. Inter-ethnic and other forms of violence have been occurring in many regional states of the country. In this regard, subsequent massacres have happened in Western parts of Oromia. Amid the incidents, false information about the massacres was spotted and debunked by HaqCheck.

After the June 18 Tole Kebele massacre in Western Wollega, false videos and images circulated with claims that they show the massacre. A Facebook page on June 21 shared a 13-minutes and 5-seconds video captioned “this video shows the massacre in West Wollega.”

However, HaqCheck confirmed that the video was first shared on  Jul 23, 2021, by a Facebook account. The video was first shared with a caption, “WBO [OLA] is freeing prisoners, thousands of WBO commandos are marching to 4 Kilo.” The post was then rated False.


HaqCheck urges YouTube content creators and social media outlets to be responsible and avoid creating misleading video titles and thumbnails.

False titles and false thumbnails that have nothing to do with the actual content of videos have become the main disinformation trend on social media recently. This trend is overwhelming mainly because of commercial motives of obtaining more viewership for video content.

We recommend social media users be critical. It is advised to cross-check information rather than consuming and sharing it without questioning the authenticity of the information at hand. They should look for original and trustable sources for potentially misleading and deceptive issues.

Government authorities should ensure full and open access to information to the media and public. Public offices should also avail timely and sufficient information.

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