YouTube announced Tuesday that it will be taking steps to suppress videos deemed “controversial” by placing them in a “limited state,” even if they do not violate the site’s policies, according to an official blog post by YouTube.
According to the blog, YouTube will be disabling comments and monetization for videos that don’t but are flagged by users for “hate speech,” regardless of whether they break YouTube’s content rules:
We’ll soon be applying tougher treatment to videos that aren’t illegal but have been flagged by users as potential violations of our policies on hate speech and violent extremism. If we find that these videos don’t violate our policies but contain controversial religious or supremacist content, they will be placed in a limited state. The videos will remain on YouTube behind an interstitial, won’t be recommended, won’t be monetized, and won’t have key features including comments, suggested videos, and likes.
YouTube stated that it will be using a “trusted flagger” coalition to advise on what content should be relegated to the shadows and what is and isn’t hate speech. The coalition will include groups that have been accused of or exhibited leftist biases in the past such as the Anti-Defamation League, the No Hate Speech Movement, and the Institute for Strategic Dialogue.
The site also revealed that it will alter search results so that any time a topic pertaining to “sensitive keywords” is typed into the search bar, users will be “redirected” to a playlist of YouTube curated content that “directly confront and debunk violent extremist messages.”
These videos will oftentimes be featured from the list of YouTube’s “Creators for Change” video makers, whom YouTube describes as creators “tackling social issues and promoting awareness, tolerance and empathy” in their videos. This list of creators features noted social justice advocates, such as Franchesca Ramsey.
While YouTube’s post said that these steps are being taken to fight online terrorism, some YouTube video creators have expressed opposition and concern that YouTube will begin silencing their content in favor of left-leaning content.
“If a video doesn’t break YouTube’s terms of services then they absolutely SHOULD NOT be attempting to dampen the reach of the video any further,” Annand “Bunty King” Virk told The Daily Caller. “Who determines what’s passable and what isn’t? At what point do we finally realize that saying the right thing isn’t always about saying what people want to hear?”
“By these standards, if YouTube existed previous to the Emancipation Act, they’d be censoring videos criticizing slave owners, since being anti-slavery wasn’t popular … at all,” Virk said. “The popular opinion isn’t always the right opinion.”
YouTube did not define what constitutes “hate speech” or terrorist or supremacist messages. These nebulous terms, in conjunction with help from leftist organizations and content creators, have given rise to questions about the future of thought diversity on the platform.
“I do not trust their ability [to automatically flag extremist content],” content creator Matt Jarbo told the Daily Caller. “I think they have an algorithm in place to help combat those issues, but it’s not narrow enough to not impact the skeptical/anti-SJW content.”
In the past, YouTube has censored videos from conservative groups such as Prager U for videos that denounced Islamic terrorism as “hate speech.” Last year, YouTube placed Prager U videos in the “restricted” column, alongside videos with sexual content and adult themes, despite the channel containing nothing lewd or explicit in their videos.