YouTube & # 39; s difficult summer continues. Recent stories have shown the company may accidentally generate video playlists for pedophiles; the Federal Trade Commission is investigating the site targeting advertisements to children; and the New York Times linked the popularity of the site until the rise of right-wing extremism in Brazil. (Also: everything linked at the top of this column.)
But nothing has determined the summer of YouTube more than the conflict between Vox.com video presenter Carlos Maza and the right-wing expert Steven Crowder. The conflict – about whether someone with millions of followers has another YouTuber repeatedly a & # 39; lispy queer & # 39; should mention – emphasized the gap between what is allowed under the YouTube Community Guidelines and what is actually permitted. (Crowder escaped with almost everything; his new fame almost certainly compensated for the loss of income from his channel.)
Today, in its quarterly letter to YouTubers, CEO Susan Wojcicki took the opportunity to defend the idea of a website that allows almost anyone to upload a video – even offensive videos & # 39; s. She writes:
A commitment to openness is not easy. It sometimes means that you leave content outside of the regular, controversial or even offensive nature. But I believe that hearing a wide range of perspectives ultimately makes us a stronger and better-informed society, even if we disagree with some of those views. A large part of how we protect this openness is not alone guidelines that enable diversity of expression, but the steps we take to ensure a responsible community. I said a number from times this year this is my first priority. A responsible approach to managing what is on our platform protects our users and creators like you. It also means that we can continue to promote all the good that comes from an open platform.
The letter is full of links to the good YouTubers – those who make crazy, educational, good-hearted videos for their crazy fans. All this is well and good, even though it seems to me to bypass the central issue at the center of the debate, what was – what constitutes intimidation?
The site's community guidelines still say & # 39;Content or behavior intended to maliciously harass, threaten or bully others is not permitted on YouTube. ”There is no discussion about how the context around a video could change that statement. But when discussing the Maza affair, YouTube said that "context" is the determining factor for determining whether a tricky video remains – and that the context of the Crowder videos is essentially media criticism and therefore allowed.
In my opinion, the YouTube debate that we have to conduct is not about open platforms versus closed platforms. Rather, it is about the policy that a company advertises versus the policy that they enforce.
Meanwhile, Here is an intriguing paper from researchers at the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais in Brazil and the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland, which documents another aspect of YouTube's openness: the way it has attracted a large audience for conservative thinkers. The article & # 39; Auditing Radicalization Pathways on YouTube & # 39; seeks to measure the site's ability to nurture extremism by following commentators for 11 years. (Note that the article has not yet been evaluated by peers.)
Researchers grouped conservative YouTubers into three admittedly fuzzy categories of escalating polarity: the & # 39; intellectual dark web & # 39 ;, the & # 39; alt-lite & # 39; and the & # 39; alt-right & # 39 ;. (They built up the categories with information from the Anti-Defamation League and Data & Society and their own research.) They found that people who started their time on YouTube by responding to less extreme channels, commented over time on more extreme channels. of their data:
Consider, for example, users who only commented on I.D.W in 2006 – 2012. or Alt-lite content (227, 945 users), as shown in the subplot in the first column and the first row. By 2018, around 10% were slightly infected, and roughly 4% were severe or mild, which is a total of more than 9k users. Of those who only commented in Alt-lite or I.D.W in 2017. video & # 39; s (1, 253, 751 users), as shown in the last column of the first row, about 12% of them became infected – more than 60k users in total.
There are clear limits here, as the authors acknowledge. The fact that someone comments on a series of extremist videos does not necessarily mean that he has become an extremist himself. And yet the data seems to indicate that over time, the open platform of YouTube is giving thousands of people a boost – a remarkable fact in a time of rising extremist violence. (Mandatory disclaimer here that there are many other media forces that push people to the right, including conservative talk radio and cable news, and some of them are probably more effective in this regard than YouTube.)
In her letter, Wojcicki promises to remove extremist content more effectively over time. She also repeats a promise to update the site's policy of harassment by the maker. In the meantime, I couldn't help but saw the number 1 maker in the taxonomy of Brazilian researchers of "alt-light" makers. With 727 million views, he reduced the number of subscribers to his closest competitor. It was Steven Crowder, of course, and I couldn't help but wonder how far his evil influence had spread beyond Carlos Maza.
⭐ China uses LinkedIn to recruit spies abroad. Edward Wong reports on how the schedule works on the New York Times:
Foreign agents are exploiting social media to try and raise assets, with LinkedIn as the first hunting ground, western counterintelligence officials say. Intelligence services in the United States, Great Britain, Germany and France have warned that foreign agents are approaching thousands of users on the site. Chinese spies are the most active, officials say.
The use of social media by Chinese government officials for what American officials and executives call nefarious purposes has received more attention in recent weeks. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube said they were deleted accounts who had spread disinformation about pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. Twitter only said it was deleted nearly 1,000 accounts.
The US government is concerned that hackers will focus on voter registration databases before the 2020 elections. A ransomware attack is feared. (Christopher Bing / Reuters)
European Union regulators have opened an investigation into Google Jobs. I think it's time to build an antitrust research tracker. (Foo Yun Chee / Reuters)
Ex-Facebook chief security officer Alex Stamos comes along The Vergecast to talk about whether social platforms are ready for 2020. "Instagram has some of the same problems as Twitter because you can have a pseudo-anonymous identity on Instagram," Stamos told Nilay Patel. “The fact that Instagram is primarily images offers some advantage, but not tons. As you know, the Russian troll factories have professional meme farms. "
Facebook launched "local alerts" to help governments communicate with users in emergency situations. The function has so far been tested in more than 300 cities. (Arriana McLymore / Reuters)
In an op-ed, Sen. Bernie Sanders says that as president he would take stronger antitrust measures against Facebook and Google. He states that the companies have been bad for the American journalism industry and democracy in general.
Ben Thompson complains about what he calls "privacy hysteria" and calls for a more even discussion about the advantages and disadvantages of sharing and collecting data.
Here is a somewhat esoteric, but provocative article that claims that platforms maintain their speech rules through probabilities. It appears to be a useful lens to consider various policy considerations. (Mike Ananny / Knight First Amendment Institute)
⭐ The financiers recommend that Social Science Research Council end the project if Facebook does not share the promised data with researchers by September 30. The Social Media and Democracy Research Grants program was an attempt to better understand the relationship between Facebook and government, but Facebook has postponed the project indefinitely.
Chinese teenagers shun WeChat in favor of Douyin (the Chinese version of TikTok, also owned by ByteDance) and the venerable QQ. (South China Morning Post)
Scale a bug bounty program started in case you encounter a bug in it, as that its success could destabilize the existing political order.
crap answer one of the longest running questions in technology – what does the Yelp product team do? – by introducing its first redesign into the historical memory. And it has personalized recommendations, which usually cause some sort of unintended havoc on the world. Stay tuned!
And finally …
Recently Mikhail Rybakov asked a question that we have asked ourselves a hundred times: what would it look like if you had recreated Facebook's response emoji with a photo of Mark Zuckerberg and a dismantled neural network? But unlike most of us, Rybakov really went ahead with it.
The results are (1) terrifying and (2) now available as a Telegram sticker package.
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