Google's YouTube has long been struggling to counter offensive videos and now it has a new strategy in place: burying them.
YouTube houses a wide pool of all sorts of videos, from instructive DIYs to funny pet videos, product reviews, official teasers, and everything in between, but it also hosts some offensive videos that may not necessarily violate specific guidelines that would warrant their removal.
With that in mind, Google pledges to take a number of measures to keep YouTube cleaner. The problem with offensive videos gained more traction after news that one of those responsible for the London Bridge terrorist attack became radicalized after watching YouTube videos of extremely religiously-charged sermons from an American Islamic preacher.
YouTube Countering Extremist Content
Fighting off extremist content online has become a priority in today's connected world, but it's an uphill battle. Google, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, and others have been struggling to counter such content, but it's no easy task and more content surfaces for each bit removed.
In YouTube's case, countering extremist videos poses another challenge. Some videos that are blatantly violating its community guidelines are easy to identify and they're quickly removed. Other videos, however, don't necessarily violate specific rules so there's no obvious violation there, which makes them more complicated to track, assess and determine whether they should be removed.
Google now has a new strategy in place to handle such instances. From now on, offensive videos that are not severe enough to hit the standard conditions for removal will come with a warning and will not support monetization options such as advertising. At the same time, other users will not be able to endorse or recommend these videos. Such cases would include videos that promote subjugating certain races or religions, but without actually inciting to violence. These videos will be limited in terms of reach and monetization, but will not be restricted otherwise.
In other words, Google plans to leave them on YouTube, but bury them deep in the sea of YouTube videos so that it's tough to reach an audience.
"That means these videos will have less engagement and be harder to find," the company explains. "We think this strikes the right balance between free expression and access to information without promoting extremely offensive viewpoints."
Google has previously received criticism for allowing advertisements to appear alongside offensive videos on YouTube, and some companies such as AT&T and Verizon even decided to pull their ads off YouTube because of this. With its new policy to allow some offensive videos to stay on YouTube, but deeply buried and with no ads besides them, Google aims to ease some of those concerns.
In addition, the company also plans to implement tougher standards, hire more experts, fast-track the detection of extremist content, and expand its work to counter radicalization.
Google says it will pay 50 charities to find and flag extremist content so that it doesn't rely solely on computers to analyze videos. Experts from various non-governmental organizations will help Google assess which videos are religious, which are harmless speech, and which are violent propaganda. The company will also allocate more engineering resources to the identification and removal of offensive videos.