If there’s one thing I’ve heard more than anything when it comes you viewing videos on YouTube it’s “just don’t look at the comments.” This statement couldn’t be more true as the YouTube community for the most part is full of the most toxic voices on the world wide web.
So it baffles me that YouTube has decided to offer a way for this community to essentially moderate what goes on, on the video sharing service.
YouTube Heroes, as the company are calling it, is a sort of community-based rewards program where users can earn points by interacting with videos and other community features. From adding captions to videos to replying to posts in the YouTube help centre, these points add up to give users a higher status in the YouTube Hero world.
As you’d expect, the more points earned the more abilities these community members earn, these abilities go from flagging and removing comments to what could be considered the most stupid tool: mass flagging videos which may violate YouTube’s terms of service.
Now, this on paper all sounds well and dandy, but YouTube’s Terms of Service has constantly come under scrutiny, especially as of late following content creators finding that YouTube has only just started alerting them that their content may not meet these guidelines and will no longer be monetised.
You see, the problem is, this demonitisation that’s been hitting many creators seems to work on an algorithmic basis which seems to pay the most attention to tags, which in itself is a pile of crap. What makes matters worse is that a huge percentage of those affected by this demonitisation has had their videos re-monitised after using the appeal process meaning that 90% of the time this algorithm is just plain wrong.
Now, you may think that these YouTube Heroes can solve this problem as a real person can watch videos and determine whether they violate guidelines or not, but as we all know from YouTube comments, it’s an incredibly toxic place and what’s to stop one “Hero” from flagging videos they don’t agree with?
The problem here is not the bias towards certain videos, opinions, or creators, however, the problem here is how easy YouTube’s Terms of Service can be manipulated for nefarious reasons.
Let’s take a video which talks about current events, particularly one which focuses on a disaster or crisis of some sorts. While the video is perfectly informative, it essentially violates YouTube’s guidelines because of the subject matter. Again, another video which may be a vlog of some sort has the creator swear, or say something that a user doesn’t agree in, this violates YouTube’s ToS. Thus Heroes can flag both of these videos and have them either taken down, or demonitised.
The bigger issue here is that YouTube is putting a hell of a lot of trust in the hands of a hell of a lot of people, essentially turning YouTube in a community moderated platform rather than a platform for free speech and expression.
It also asks another question, who moderates the moderators? When someone mass flags a bunch of videos, are they going to be instantly taken down or demonitised? Or will they head to another moderator for approval or verification?
As you’d expect, this has caused many questions to be asked with very little answers coming from YouTube. It’ll be interesting to see how wide spread this feature becomes as well as how well it’s adopted by users. Right now however, it’s all up in the air and it has creators worried.