YouTube Censorship

So, YouTube have announced changes to some of their policies regarding the content of uploaded videos. Many in the mob are screaming “censorship!” and technically they’re right. It does qualify as censorship but it’s hardly new – YouTube has always placed restrictions on what they regard as acceptable content. It hardly seems like the end of the world to me and I’m even hopeful that one or two of the changes might actually improve the site.
Breaking it down, YT seem to have two main goals. First is to randomly generate the thumbnail for videos to fight what’s commonly referred to as “thumbnail cheating” and second is to remove or at least demote the more “adult” content from the “most viewed” etc. lists of videos.
The change to thumbnails isn’t going to generate a significant outcry. For those who don’t know, prior to this change, YouTube chose the exact centre frame of video to represent that video as a thumbnail. Once you knew that you could edit your video in such a way that you controlled what would appear in the thumbnail. People have been complaining for years that showing boobies (or the suggestion of boobies or something similar) automatically grabbed a huge number of video views and many high profile YouTubers were accused of gaming the system.
I know from my own depressing experience that this works. My most viewed video was one where I exploited this. Horny desperadoes who were fooled by the hot babe in the thumbnail and/or the deceptive description were instead lectured by me on the perils of excessive masturbation. Two millions views later I wonder why I bothered. That statistic is really depressing to someone who puts a lot of effort into most of their videos (my highest views for non-thumbnail cheating video is about 300,000). It will kind of suck to not be able to choose how a video is represented (a grey blur does not attract many viewers) but if it stops the boobie thumbnails I guess it’s kinda worth it. [update: I've noticed YouTube is giving the opportunity to upload a specific image as the thumbnail but they threaten to cane you if you break their guidelines]
The demoting of “adult” content is where it gets interesting. One of the main ways to get your videos seen by new and/or casual YouTube viewers is by appearing on one of their “Most…” lists. If your video is “flagged” as inappropriate then you don’t appear on these lists (or the video may be removed altogether) and so your video is likely to get viewed less overall. Admittedly, this has a bigger effect on people who are already reasonably popular. YouTube hasn’t said they’ll be deleting more videos but they have said they’ll be broadening their definition of “adult” and any videos identified as such will be removed from the listings.
The fact that prominently displayed boobie cleavage and booty shaking will disappear from the “most viewed” videos will be a massive relief to most YouTubers. By “most” I mean those not blessed with nubile female bodies that can attract crowds simply by parading around while scantily clad. There, I’m jealous, I admit it. Also to fall under the hammer are videos dealing with sexually explicit topics. No more hot blondes giving instructions for the perfect blowjob appearing on “Most viewed videos”.
YouTube have also decided to demote videos with excessive profanity. Oh fuck. Several people have sent me messages asking “Won’t this affect you?” To which I have responded “Derrrrrrrr!”  After thinking about it for a while, I’m not hugely bothered by this so long as YouTube only “demotes” swearing videos and they don’t remove them entirely.  Me saying “shut the fuck up” 20 times in 60 seconds may not be the most suitable viewing for children.
 
There is no shortage of people shrieking hysterically about this.  By and large, they are fucking idiots.  The drama queens calling for mass boycotts crack me up.  “I’m leaving YouTube,” they wail, “join me and we’ll teach them a lesson.”  Fucking idiots.  If this is a step too far censorship-wise for you then refusing to participate in the site any longer is a perfectly valid choice.  But for the love of the baby Jeebus stop being such a fucking drama queen about it.  Go.  Do it.  Stop fucking talking and clamouring for attention and GO!
 
Go ahead.  Leave.  You know what the effect will be?  Nothing.  Nada.  Zip.  Fuck all.  Those hundred people who say they’re joining you?  They’re lying.  They don’t give a fuck and they’ll come back to YouTube simply because it has the videos they want to see.  Even if they’re telling the truth and they never come back, the effect on YouTube would be zero.  The number of people who would give a shit if I packed up and left is statistically so close to zero I may as well have never existed.  For fuck’s sake, Fred (the number one subscribed person on YouTube) could leave and that would barely be a blip on the radar.  The site would continue without noticing and other people would take his place.
 
So please, all the people proclaiming their outrage at these changes: get your hand off it.  I mean it.  If you pull your (metaphorical) cock any harder you’ll rip it right off.  Take whatever action you think is right for you but do me a favour and shut the fuck up about it.  Nobody gives a shit.  To paraphrase Yoda: “Do or do not.  There is no pointless shrieking like a whiny little bitch.”
 
The one thing that concerns me is the likely abuse of the flagging process now that YouTube has broadened what content will be flagged as “adult”.  This doesn’t bother me because of any new standards, it bothers me because of YouTube’s established track record.  Essentially there is a parade of fucking idiotic decisions in their past and I would expect this to get worse, not better.
 
To clarify, this isn’t about me.  Almost none of my videos have ever been flagged (maybe two or three).  But I have seen flagging decisions in the past that simply beggar belief.  YouTube claims that someone on staff reviews all videos flagged by viewers and only takes action if they decide the video truly breaches their guidelines.  Given the number of times I have seen videos flagged that definitely DO NOT breach their guidelines (YouTube later agreed and changed the decision) there is one of two conclusions to draw.  One is that YouTube is lying and they don’t have any comprehensive review process.  Two is that they employ complete fucking morons to fulfil this role.
 
YouTube NEVER respond to the community.  Not even to say “No, you can’t have that.”  But if they were going to listen, I’d like them to respond to these suggestions:
  1. Explain EXACTLY how the flagging review process works.  How many flaggings are investigated each day?  How many staff are employed to do this?
  2. Develop and publicise a review process for flaggings.  Tell people who believe their videos have been unfairly flagged exactly what steps to follow and what response they can expect in what timeframe.
  3. Give Partners the benefit of the doubt.  Give them someone they can go to directly if they feel they’ve been unfairly flagged.  If they’re willing to put their partnership on the line over it then listen to them!
  4. Give registered over-18 users the option to see flagged videos in the “Most…” lists.  Preferably with the ability to filter (e.g. I want to see profanity but not boobies)

Actually, all my suggestions to YouTube always come back to one thing: would you guys PLEASE fucking communicate with us?

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28 Comments

Filed under YouTube

28 responses to “YouTube Censorship

  1. Great post,

    “…I’m not hugely bothered by this so long as YouTube only “demotes” swearing videos and they don’t remove them entirely.”

    They shouldn’t demote them, nor remove them. Just simply put a warning up and only allow the users who are over 18 to view them.

    Simple as that, and seeing as the youtube and gmail databases can easily be linked with each other, they can check to see if the birthdates on both accounts are the same, just in case of kids trying to get past the filter.

    I reckon they should also have an option for parents to allow permission for their children to watch certain types of videos.
    It wouldn’t be THAT hard, google pretty much has everybody who uses the internet on record anyway.

  2. How about that, I just watched a recent video regarding YouTube censorship.

    http://au.youtube.com/watch?v=PlR7TQIGmiA

    It’s amazing when people only complain when it personally effects them.

  3. custador

    It’s not “censorship”, it’s “We provide you a service FOR FREE, and we are going to be selective about how we let you use that sevice”. That’s a MASSIVE difference. If an ISP were to try to control what you could watch on YouTube, that would be censorship (because it’s being done by a third party without the consent of the first or second parties). YouTube saying that there’s some stuff that they don’t want on their front page? Not so much. That’s just a business decision. If it makes their site more familly friendly, they might attract more users in the form of lots of gorms who wouldn’t risk letting little Tommy see a bikini, and so they might get more click-through revenue.

    This is a bit like the massively offensive comment which I deleted from the “about me” page of my blog the other day. Was that censorship? I have a public blog which invites comments, and yet I deleted one I didn’t like. Censorship? No. Not wanting everybody who looks at my blog to read the words of some retarded little troll who’s having a pop at me to see if he can get me to flip on him? Yes.

  4. Traitor !!!

    But seriously. Good points – there are other more imporant things to vent our anger at youtube for.

  5. I’m not convinced that anything will really change on the site. While they are stating that elicit videos will be flagged and taken off the “most” pages… it hasn’t happened yet, as could be seen by a recent Australian front page feature.

    But we’ll see how this comes to pass. As for YouTube communicating with the community, I completely agree. The only times I have ever gotten any feedback has been when I’ve messaged partner support.

  6. Etsy’s flagging system was revamped recently due to the massive outcry of it’s members. My miniature vulva and penis prints repeatedly were flagged but they remain for sale due to the fact that they are not sexually explicit and are human body parts in art form no different the the finger or hand. I just need to tag them as “mature” but do not need to hide the first image from public search.

    Yet, massive resellers and factory made paintings continue to pop up for sale on Etsy overnight and especially on weekends which are against the TOU! GRRRRRR! So we the users continue to flag them. BUT a human does review all flagulations on Etsy which is good :)

    I read this post and it just reminded me of Etsy so much. I’m not too familiar with Youtube but DUDE I know where you are coming from.

    I chalk it up to Youtube/Etsy growing pains as they are about the same age.

    cheers!

  7. Maldris

    GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH
    IT CONTINUES,

    Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system I can speak rationally. I agree with the changes in theory, but I also greatly agree with your points and wish that your ideas would be implemented and acknowledged, but they probably won’t come about.

    The changes are needed for the assistance of others but the option needs to be given to people with the responsibility to choose. Ah how the world fails to ever get things right the first time (and generally make a second time very difficult to bring about)

    Btw on your mention of Yoda, if you’re coming to the Star Wars Exhibit at the Powerhouse here in Sydney come on a Monday or Thursday and I’ll say hi. lol.

  8. custador

    “the option needs to be given to people with the responsibility to choose”

    Nope. I think you’re totally wrong. The fact is that Youtube is a privately owned business that provides a service to its users FOR FREE. As such, they can host (or not) whatever they damned well like, and list it in any way shape or form they choose. The only option that matters in this scenario is this: Don’t like it? Don’t use Youtube. Easy. Calling this “censorship” is bullshit.

  9. Of course I expect people to scream “sensorship”, but as mentioned above, YouTube functions more or less like a private company. That is, unless you want to argue that they’re owned by Google (who is publicly traded), but I don’t think a single shareholder is going to care.

  10. Chris: They may do those modifications, it would certainly be worthwhile

    Alan: It is indeed remarkable how people only care about things that affect them

    custador: It is a form of censorship but one that YouTube is well within their rights to apply

    Sean: I’m definitely a traitor

    Steve: It remains to be seen exactly how this will manifest

    Jessica: I see Etsy is becoming bigger and bigger – I hope it works out well for you

    Maldris: I’m in Melbourne, not Sydney

    Jon: From the point of view of Google I believe this is part of their attempts to reach a wider audience.

  11. Maldris

    I’m aware that your in Melbourne but weve had heaps of people coming up from there as its only going to Sydney and Brisbane (well thats what they said at training atleast. lol) oh well dosent matter was just asking as I’d spoken to a family from Melbourne that day.

  12. clare

    I just discovered your blog. Awesome what you write. I have to say I am more annoyed at the Australian censorship stuff.
    Youtube well they can do what they like as you say no one really cares .
    Teens will still be using it for uploading their bullying and bash them up videos.
    I agree with your points as well.

  13. @Clare

    YouTube does what it likes since they are owned by big business (Google). What can happen is that YouTube enthusiast write their own code and create their own version of YouTube and any income generated via adverting is directed to pay for the bandwidth and servers.

    Angry may want to create AngryVid.

  14. Maldris: Poin taken, I have no plans to visit Sydney any time soon

    clare: Glad you found me and I agree, the censorship proposed by the Asutralian government is far more troubling

    Alan: There are certainly a few platforms that make that much easier now. But I am an attention whore. An dthe audience is (currently) at YouTube. So that is where I stay.

  15. Kayla

    I’m not entirely happy with this YouTube cencorship. Highly-sexual videos shouldn’t be viewed by children, of course, and there are many kids on YouTube. But then profanity is cencored? I’ve seen people cuss their heads off in videos but still make good points. That is taking way freedom of speach. And it’s only a small change, but it makes me wonder how this will be in the next ten years when they try to bring more cencoring policies.

    Of course, this doesn’t affect me. I don’t post videos of nude people swearing, but it may someday, and it certainly affects other people now.

    Just my thoughts. =)

  16. I’m certainly not happy at the prospect of being punished for profanity, given how profane I am.

  17. I don’t mind the boobie-thumbnail-videos to be taken off the most watched list.

    But I’m pro boycott because I believe there are valid reasons for “adult” subjects in videos (and I’m not talking about using boobie thumbnails to get more viewers). Why should people not be able to talk about sex? Why should minors not be able to do that? I was talking about sex all day when I was 15 and I don’t think it was wrong. What about all the naked vlogs, that are mostly just funny and worthy to watch? are they being demoted too, because mother YT has gone prude?

    I really don’t understand why you’re making an ANTI-boycott-day instead of just ignoring the boycott.
    After having read your article it doesn’t seem to me, as if you were totally on one side or the other. So why?

  18. Ace

    The issue with YouTube censoring is that it’s more than one website, it’s a pattern by Google, who now offers a browser, email, blogging site, video site, etc., etc., that are all following the same uber-conservative and anti-free speech trend. Google is very close to a monopoly (the gov’t wouldn’t let them partner with Yahoo last year because of this). So who cares it Google offers all of these services? So do other companies. That’s not how monopoly law works, just as AT&T wasn’t technically the only communications company when it was broken up more than twenty years ago. The fact is, if your gmail is tied into your blogger account (it is), and you write something on Blogger critical of Google, Google could technically delete your entire Google account, cutting off your email, your blog, and a great deal of your web communication. And here’s the other point: YouTube takes off content arbitrarily in an unethical manner (i.e., a cartoon I had on there for months that did not violate TOS). A business can be shown to do things unethical in the court of public opinion and downright illegal in a court of law. You corporate apologists and fascist-leaning censor hawks will always defend the big guy over the people. Thank goodness for DailyMotion.

    For more of my anti-YouTube and anti-Google rants, go to http://suckermouth.blogspot.com (yes, Google does own it; so ironic)

  19. See Why Youtube Sucks in my website

  20. Vueflix was founded on the principle of truth without censorship. Other video websites will censor content they find offensive. We will not.
    vueflix.com is your answer to YouTube

  21. Max

    Real free speech and freedom of expression is very rare, especially when it comes to the sex issue (erotism or pornography).
    For example, US sites are far more reluctant to show erotical or porn material than Europe ones.
    In Europe, TV commercials often show tits and naked women to the general audience.

    Youtube has nothing to do with freedom of expression as much as it’s now owned by Google, and Google is familiar with dealing with the Chinese Communist Party…

  22. I have been having lengthy debates on the BNP v UAF incidents. Democracy is under threat in the UK, and the whole discussions have been deleted by youtube!

    it seems the main stream media and Google want to help keep the truth hidden!

  23. stevie B

    Dude, get a life. Surely you can find more appropriate and needful things to get angry about.
    And clean up the mouth while your at it. Vulgarity is childish.

  24. YJF

    I am really frustrated after my first video upload experience on youtube. I created a teaser ad to promote a product I sell. It’s a clean, honest ad in which I used an ultra-minimalistic approach of displaying text slides on a black background with music I composed and produced in my home studio. It’s a really cool ad and I promoted it via youtube’s (a-la-google driven pay per adwords engine) pay per click campaign choosing my targeted keywords carefully to attract the right audience. The program I sell is a training program which teaches how to make a good living selling affiliate products online. My ad was simple, clean and did not violate any of youtube’s policies which I reviewd carefully prior to posting my video ad. It was also a product of my creativity which I am proud of and wanted to share with my friends. I got quite a few hits, through the paid ad campaign, managed to generate some interest and after about 3 weeks, youtube suddenly rejected my video and closed down my campaign for no reason! I got some automated reply from google informing me of this and it contained a cryptic message indicating the reason for the rejection but which didn’t make any sense at all. Here is part of their message:
    “Ad Status: Suspended – Pending Revision
    Ad Issue(s): PYV: Video Content Unavailable
    SUGGESTIONS:
    Please attach an active video to your ad, and we will be happy to run your ad on YouTube and partner sites.”
    So my understanding is that my video which I slaved on to produce in Sony Vegas and created the soundtrack for in my home studio did not contain any “video content” according to youtube?? Since when does animated text with music in the form of a video advertisement not count as a real ‘video’? Can anyone shed more light on this? I tried contacting them by any means possible…but as you all know, that was a futile cause. I think I have a better chance of reaching the Dalai Lama on the phone than I do of actually talking to somebody in youtube’s operations. If anybody has any idea of what actually happened here and can offer any suggestions, I’d greatly appreciate it.

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