YouTube admitted it was militant about removing and censoring content this year.
Between July and September, YouTube removed 58 million videos, 1.67 million channels, and 224 million comments for violations including inappropriate content or spreading “hate speech.”
According to YouTube’s Dec. 13, “transparency” report it justified the removals these videos and methods of review. While some reasons like removing imagery of illegal abuse, nudity, and spam made sense, YouTube’s “hate speech” rationale raised eyebrows among free speech watchdogs. The use of machine learning algorithms was also a concern for many political commentators and YouTubers.
The Hill quoted an unnamed YouTube spokesman who confessed they removed “conspiracy theories targeted towards particular groups or people because those videos violate hate speech and harassment policies.” However, YouTube did not say who was responsible for flagging those videos or list the “conspiracy theories” that were removed. Many right-wing causes are treated by the left as conspiracy theories -- from disputing climate change to illegal immigration.
Reuters reported that algorithms are being used to determine which videos should be taken down. It also noted that while Google (which owns YouTube) may have expanded to use more than 10,000 moderators “pre-screening every video [is] unfeasible.” MIT recently published a study about how algorithms are clearly biased based upon their creators’ worldviews, yet companies “show no interest in fixing the problem.”
Human moderators turn out to be just as problematic, as proven on November 13th when a YouTube moderator mistook a famous World War 2 Era video mocking Nazis for pro-Nazi propaganda and took it down. Adam Green, The Public Domain Review’s editor in chief, found the situation farcical, shocked at how any moderator could have mistaken a clear satire for being pro-Nazi.
YouTube has already proven itself to be extremely biased and has alienated its own fanbase. The annual “YouTube Rewind” used to be beloved as a homage to its influential creators, memes, and music over the past year. But the 2018 Rewind was heavily politicized, featured drag queens and notably omitted politically-incorrect gaming YouTuber PewDiePie. It quickly became the most disliked video in the platform’s entire history.