YouTube has announced a new system to catch and flag what it calls “controversial religious and supremacist” videos hosted on the platform. The platform plans to hide these videos from wider audiences, and demonetize them to prevent their creators from earning revenue from YouTube.
The move was met with widespread skepticism from YouTube content creators.
To crack down on offensive content, the company is using a combination of machine learning and volunteer “experts” to flag that needs review. It also plans to implement “tougher standards” for videos that are controversial but do not violate the site’s terms of service.
YouTube says it isn’t going to remove the borderline content entirely, but will instead place these videos in a purgatory state preventing them from being monetized or promoted. To facilitate these changes, YouTube will be artificially altering its search algorithms to prevent offensive topics from discovery.
We’ll soon be applying tougher treatment to videos that aren’t illegal but have been flagged by users as potential violations of our policies on hate speech and violent extremism. If we find that these videos don’t violate our policies but contain controversial religious or supremacist content, they will be placed in a limited state. The videos will remain on YouTube behind an interstitial, won’t be recommended, won’t be monetized, and won’t have key features including comments, suggested videos, and likes.
According to YouTube, the system, while largely automated, will mix in human reviews in the form of its already established “Trusted Flagger” volunteer program that works with over 15 institutions to deal with extremist content, including the Anti-Defamation League.
The ADL recently released a list naming members of the “alt-right” and the “alt-lite,” the latter of which included controversial YouTube personalities like Gavin McInnes, Mike Cernovich, and Brittany Pettibone. Curiously, the ADL is selective in what it chooses to label as “extremism.” It does not have violent far-left ideologies like Antifa and militant leftist organizations like Redneck Revolt on its radar.
It’s worth noting that the “Trusted Flagger” system was later transformed into the much maligned “YouTube Heroes” program, which invited the public to help moderate content. It was heavily criticized for giving social justice activists the power to manipulate the platform.
Despite the apparent focus on targeting extremism, YouTube’s announcement includes the company’s efforts to artificially promote videos through its “Creators for Change” program, which in YouTube’s own words pushes creators who are “using their voices to speak out against hate speech, xenophobia, and extremism.”
High-profile feminists, including Franchesca Ramsey, are listed as ambassadors and fellows. Notably absent is Laci Green, whose strong 1.5 million subscriber count earns her top billing as the site’s most popular feminist. Green has come under fire from social justice advocates for opening dialogue with anti-feminists.
“If a video doesn’t break YouTube’s terms of services then they absolutely SHOULD NOT be attempting to dampen the reach of the video any further,” said YouTuber Annand “Bunty King” Virk, who raised his concerns with The Daily Caller. “Who determines what’s passable and what isn’t? At what point do we finally realize that saying the right thing isn’t always about saying what people want to hear?”
“By these standards, if YouTube existed previous to the Emancipation Act, they’d be censoring videos criticizing slave owners, since being anti-slavery wasn’t popular… at all,” he added. “The popular opinion isn’t always the right opinion.”
Matt Jarbo, who goes by MundaneMatt on YouTube, shared his views with The Daily Caller on the move. “They know its almost a non-issue completely,” Jarbo said. “But due to the controversies surrounding those videos, they’ve gotten a much larger spotlight than they deserve.”
“I do not trust their ability [to automatically flag extremist content],” he said. “I think they have an algorithm in place to help combat those issues, but it’s not narrow enough to not impact the skeptical/anti-SJW content.”