It appears that YouTube is more responsible for the first crisis of the year on its video platform than was initially thought.
Yesterday, the internet was rightly outraged byÂ news that YouTube star Logan Paul, who has 15 million subscribers and is part of YouTubeâs Red subscription service,Â posted and later deleted a video that included extensive footage of a suicide victim filmed at Japanâs âSuicide Forestâ.
Paul deleted the video less than 24 hours after posting it following outrage, but not before it had been watched by some six million people and â it emerges â been okayed by YouTubeâs moderation team.
That revelation comes from one of YouTubeâs own content assessment team who posted a screenshot that showed that the video had been approved on January 1 after being flagged by concerned viewers,Â as BuzzFeed first noted.
Let that sink for a minute. A person who is paid to kept unsuitable content off the platform looked over this video, and the footage of the victimâs barely-blurred-out corpse hanging from a tree, and decided that it is the kind of thing that should exist on the internetâs most popular video service.
The video included the hanging body in the thumbnail and was titled âWe found a dead body in the Japanese Suicide Forest.â Yet despite that, and the disturbing scenes it included, it notÂ only passed YouTubeâs moderation check, but also went on to rank among the siteâs top ten trending videos thereby exposing the disturbing scenes to viewers beyond Paulâs already-popular channel. (Notably, many of Paulâs subscribers are children aged under 18.)
YouTubeâs guidelines specifically state that âitâs not okay to post violent or gory content thatâs primarily intended to be shocking, sensational, or disrespectful.â
Paul has since apologized a second time, but now the focus must be on how and why YouTube did not remove the video.
âOur hearts go out to the family of the person featured in the video. YouTube prohibits violent or gory content posted in a shocking, sensational or disrespectful manner. If a video is graphic, it can only remain on the site when supported by appropriate educational or documentary information and in some cases it will be age-gated. We partner with safety groups such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to provide educational resources that are incorporated in our YouTube Safety Center,â a YouTube spokesperson told TechCrunch in a statement.
The spokesperson did not comment on whether YouTube had taken additional action against Paul, such as issuing a strike against his channel. According to its policies, channels that receive three strikes inside a three-month period are removed from the service, but each strike expires after three months.
According to the pseudonymous YouTube content moderator, other channels that reposted Paulâs video â predominantly due to outrage â were hit with strikes.
A still from the video, viaÂ YouTuber Kavos
The incident may seem like a wrinkle in YouTubeâs outgoing troubles given that the video was deleted within 24 hours, but it exposes just how broken YouTubeâs current system is. Itâs all the more worrying when you consider that YouTube claims over a billion users, who âeach day.. watch a billion hours of video, generating billions of views.â
YouTube has pledged to increase its investment in artificial intelligence moderationÂ andÂ increase its army of content checkers and moderators to 10,000 people,Â but a more thorough revamp of its approach seems to be needed. Thereâs also plenty of much-justified concern that relying on AI wonât be enough, as evidenced by Googleâs failure to respond to questions and exampled aired byÂ the Home Affairs Committee in the UKâs Parliament weeks ago.
Perhaps the most damning criticism of Paulâs video came from another video star.
PewDiePie, YouTubeâs most popular channel owner with over 50 subscribers, has been a vocal critic of Paul and his equally brash younger brother Jake, while heâs also no stranger toÂ getting in hot waterÂ due to video content.
âIt encompasses everything wrong with YouTube, the clickbait, the sensationalism, the thing thatâs got to keep pushing [the envelope]. At the end of the day, it just shines bad on everyone,â the YouTuber, real nameÂ Felix Kjellberg, said in a video.
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