It’s not outlandish to suggest that, as a breed, YouTube vloggers have narcissistic, paranoid tendencies.
They spend hours talking to the camera about their hopes, hurts, dreams, passions, opinions, grooming habits, food choices, video game skills and other mundane details of their personal lives, then post these ramblings on the internet, expecting that people will care.
What’s surprising — well, not so surprising anymore — is that, often, people do care, as evidenced by the rising tide of social media stars with millions of followers, courted by advertisers and Hollywood studios, some with seven- or eight-figure annual incomes.
It’s hard to dismiss the notion that money and attention have given these vloggers an inflated sense of self when one hears them complain that their free speech rights are being violated when YouTube removes or “demonetizes” their videos for Community Guidelines violations — apparently unaware that, while the First Amendment forbids the U.S. government from infringing on free speech, it doesn’t cover companies removing content from their owned-and-operated platforms.
Vloggers clinging to the idea they’re unique, persecuted snowflakes should take a look at statistics just released by YouTube. In a blog post published on Thursday, the Google-owned company revealed that 90 million people from 196 countries have flagged videos on YouTube since 2006 — more than the population of Egypt — and over a third of them have flagged more than one video.
But, as the old saying goes, just because you’re paranoid, it doesn’t mean that they’re not out to get you. The blog post also noted the number of flags per day is up over 25%, year-over-year.
“In 2015 alone, we removed 92 million videos for violation of our policies through a mix of user flagging and our spam-detection technology,” wrote Juniper Downs, head of YouTube public policy, in the blog post. “While we are vigilant and fast in removing terrorist content and hate speech, it’s worth noting that it actually represents a very small proportion of the content that violates our guidelines — those two violations account for only 1 percent of the videos removed in 2015.” Videos can also be flagged for spam, sexual content, harassment and violent content.
The blog boasts that YouTube has trained teams, fluent in multiple languages, evaluating the flagged videos 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year in time zones around the world.
“They remove content that violates our terms, age-restrict content that may not be appropriate for all audiences, and are careful to leave content up if it hasn’t crossed the line,” Downs wrote. “Flagged content, however, doesn’t automatically get removed. YouTube is an important global platform for information and news, and our teams evaluate videos before taking action in order to protect content that has an educational, documentary, scientific or artistic purpose.”
However, the unparalleled free speech rights provided by the First Amendment in the U.S. do not extend to other countries, and YouTube will restrict content in a country’s domain if it receives a valid legal notice that content violates a local law.
In the spring, the European Commission (EC) and Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft unveiled a code of conduct on Tuesday designed to combat the spread of illegal hate speech in countries of the European Union. The companies pledged to review notifications for removal of illegal hate speech in less than 24 hours and remove or disable access to such content, if necessary.
Earlier this week, the EC tightened the screws, proposing another revamp of copyright law that could force YouTube, Dailymotion and other video hosting platforms to proactively scan their videos and remove copyright violators, or face the prospect of paying the proper rights holders. Under current rules, video hosting sites only have to issue takedowns after being notified by rights holders.
“This would effectively turn the internet into a place where everything uploaded to the web must be cleared by lawyers before it can find an audience,” said Caroline Atkinson, Google’s VP of global policy, of the proposed changes.