Published: 22 September 2016
YouTube has a long history of introducing programs that over-generalise and punish its user base. The most controversial of which has been its widely loathed “Content ID” system – an algorithmic video crawler that automatically scans videos and removes them if it finds copyrighted material, even if the video creator has a license or permission to use said material.
It has only been weeks since YouTube began demonitising videos for having “controversial content” (a definition which has been vague at best) including vlogs from genuinely useful and innocent content creators who produce sexual health videos, advice for sufferers of depression and political news discussion. All of whom are now having their revenue streams blocked by another of YouTube’s sweeping automatic robots for not being “advertiser-friendly”.
Both of these examples are compounded by the fact that YouTube has a serious moderation problem. It is all too easy for any user to remove someone else’s video for weeks at a time, claiming that it breaks copyright law. While the issue is contested, the video cannot make any money, meaning that the creator loses out on precious views, and therefore one of their sources of revenue.
Now we come to YouTubes latest initiative: Announced only yesterday, ‘YouTube Heroes’ is a program designed to encourage users to go out and “mass-flag videos” (verbatim quote) as inappropriate, offensive, or containing copyrighted material. In return, said ‘Heroes’ are given points and perks like invites to trade shows, and the chance to engage “one on one” with YouTube staff and the community as a whole.
Okay, credit where credit is due. Using gamification to incentivise people with nothing else better to do to moderate your community, without having to pay actual moderators or community managers is clever in a very manipulative sort of way. So good job with that.
But here's a question for YouTube: have you thought about the sorts of people who will be attracted to this unpaid job? Because let's be honest, they're not joining you for the chance to join the Heroes Convention or whatever it's called.
Anyone who has ever taken a gander at the comments for any popular YouTube video knows that the community they’re so proudly celebrating is a toxic swamp, awash with un-checked troll comments with hateful sentiment. Now YouTube has just given these people rewards for “mass-flagging”, again without any extra moderation on their part, opening the door for even more abuse of their video removal ‘suite’ of options.
Ironically enough, many users have sent a clear message to YouTube, by flagging the introductory video and giving a very firm thumbs down. YouTube in return has disabled comments for the video. Make of that what you will.
It is clear that YouTube is in severe need of a large competitor to keep it in check, as Content Creators are beginning to get sick of the constant barriers put up between them and their audience.