YouTube has been in the news this past week for two different issues related to its censorship decisions. Firstly the serving of paid for ads alongside material of an extremist persuasion Telegraph article. Secondly the possibly over zealous censorship with the restricted mode version of YouTube ABC News article. I am going to choose not to address these two issues directly and rather elect to consider the problematic situation YouTube finds it self in.

YouTube as a business model relies on large amounts of unpaid content which it sells advertising besides. As a business it is entirely based on scale, huge amounts of scale. Approximately 300 hours of content are uploaded every minute. This quantity creates a mammoth human task of censorship which is argued would be finically impossible to undertake.

This scale issue was arguable the winning feature of YouTube in the online video wars. It was ‘disruptive’ to allow anyone to create content and then distribute it on their behalf while monatizing it but claiming no responsibility.

This disruptive business model has always caused problems. Initially this was a problem of copyright infringing material rather than potentially objectionable but non copyright infringing material that has become the focus of recent disputes.

YouTube and other online platforms continue to offer apologies and excuses thats these ‘errors’ based on the inaccuracies of their current systems. Often such excuses are accompanied by promises of a future with more robust automatic censorship systems. Systems that will prevent these incorrect censorship occurrences from happening again.

However I suspect that such a future is actually impossible to create. No censorship system can ever be accurate. Old media understood this problem and taught the audience to understand the challenge it faced. Individual media outlets had their own defined standards and editors ultimately took responsibility for material published, perhaps even to the point of resignation.

YouTube is not old media is has established another practice, one which the audience most now learn to understand. One which requires the user to understand the lack of editorial relationship inherent to YouTube, the lack of meaningful advertiser content creator relationship and the fact that while it is not the wild, wild west its pretty close.

So on the basis that YouTube will never be able to categories, appropriately censor or filter its content here are my personal rules for YouTubing.

  • Most of YouTube is opinions, opinions are not facts and sometimes the only value is in telling you what something thinks about something.
  • YouTube creators may or may not have product endorsements that they may or may not be telling you about.
  • The suggested videos are unlikely to offer a balance opinion
  • The advertiser has nothing to do with the video and yes ads are annoying
  • YouTube videos get taken down, channels disappear its horrible for research
  • Some YouTube videos are objectionable but freedom of speech and exchange of ideas is more important than my opinion about a video