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YouTube is the Internet's foremost repository of videos that end up as TV news filler items. Credited as one of the driving forces of Web 2.0, it makes readily available many music videos, copyright-infringing clips from TV shows and movies, annoying would-be music or comedy acts, random people playing video games for twenty minutes, and stupid home videos. Basically the cesspool of the Internet.
YouTube allows for free expression in discussion of these videos, where people can either post their own video in reply or leave a comment under it. But if you are looking for meaningful exchange of ideas, there are a few problems:
- Video uploaders may remove certain comments, or disable comments altogether, if they don't like the ones they are getting. (Is this really a problem, though? See #2 below.)
- Most of the comments are by total fuckwads and credulous morons (to the point that often people post comments about how many comments will be of the same shitty meme).
- Some commenters don't even read the refutations you give them, and keep rambling on about what you refuted three comments ago. God forbid they actually learn something.
- Popular videos attract high numbers of comments, leading to very low signal-to-noise ratios.
- Up until late 2013, serious discussion of videos was also hampered by the technical characteristics of the system itself: a 500 character limit and a clumsy reading interface, lacking crucial 1980s innovations such as proper threads. This old system was replaced by the failed Google+ merger, but the culture still remains with plenty of Ad hominems to hand out.
- Since November 2021, the count of "dislikes" (negative ratings) is no longer visible to anyone except videos' respective channel owners. This may cause videos of low quality such as clickbait and scam to require more effort to detect.
- Sturgeon's Law.
As well as posting LOL comments, registered users can upvote and downvote videos, which can serve as an indication of the
quality popularity of any given video—comparable to movie ratings. Who but the most die-hard zombie fan will stay up until 4am in order to watch a highly down-voted movie? The voting system is somewhat subjective, since viewers can vote based purely on personal tastes or support of claims/beliefs made in a video. It's mobocracy which obviously breaks down when users aren't as clever and attractive as you!
As it is generally free of pornography, YouTube is technically not really part of the Internet.[citation NOT needed]
A long time ago, a Black woman was sexually assaulted by a young White man, not only in front of witnesses, but on camera at a sporting event. She had some of her private parts briefly exposed, and she was forced to pay over half a million dollars, her career was ruined, while the man not only received no punishment, he even got to star in a few movies afterwards.
This is of course, the 2004 Superbowl Halftime Show. If you have never stumbled upon nor considered that perspective of the infamous "nipplegate", consider what that implies about sexism and/or racism in the Media.
The media played this story for many months afterwards, yet for all the controversy, the founders of YouTube could not easily find the video of the original "wardrobe malfunction". They decided to fix that problem, by creating a website dedicated for searching such videos. For the articles, obviously. This is quite ironic, considering YouTube's current "values" regarding what it does and does not allow on the website.
Censorship of videos through false flagging and vote bots
YouTube provides two methods by which users can reduce the visibility (and presumably the popularity) of videos. The first is to flag it as being unsuitable for minors, since a sufficient number of "votes" will hide the video from everyone except registered users of an appropriate age. The second approach is to vote-down a video (using the voting system mentioned earlier in this article), either manually through a conspiracy of users or by using a vote bot, which is typically a script that allows a single person to register a large number of votes over multiple videos. It's kind of like being able to stuff the ballot box. Vote botting has a more pronounced effect on smaller videos, since there are likely to be fewer genuine votes to counteract the effects of the vote botting.
Some authors respond to the problem of vote bots by asking their viewers to register votes to counteract the effects of vote botting. This approach could arguably result in mundane videos being voted-up simply because people agree with the views of the author.
A vote-bot is a script which runs by a computer (or several, or possibly even ones that have been hijacked) and thus has very predictable behavior. In March 2008, YouTube released Insight, an analytical tool for YouTube accounts to track the views of their videos. This has been used with quite high success in spotting the predictable activity of a bot. Specifically, when a vote-bot script executes, it tends to operate only for a short period of time - perhaps a few hours to a day at most - registering dozens, if not hundreds of accounts. All these accounts will then "watch" a selected video and give it an up vote or possibly a down vote, although it's not sure how common this kind of "up-voting" is. Insight then allows a user to view if this has happened as the graphical data produced will show a large, clear spike in the number of votes, well above the normal baseline of voting activity, for the duration of the script's execution. A corresponding spike, equally above the baseline, in the record of down votes will also appear. These spikes are usually many, many times above the baseline activity and are usually much higher than any "natural" spikes.[note 1]
The "hotspots" option, which tracks how much of the video, and what parts of the video, has been watched may also show a notable dip at the beginning due to the bot being there only to register the vote and not actually watching the video. However, this would only be expected on videos with viewing figures that are small relative to the vote-bot.
YouTube as a debate forum
Many YouTubers create videos expressing a particular political or religious viewpoint. These are then answered by others expressing contrary viewpoints—each gathering their own band of vociferous followers in various levels of coherent text. Notwithstanding the intensity of debates within the YouTube medium, it is unlikely that these debates have much (or indeed any) influence on the outside world, unless they happen to go viral.
A number of people who actually bother to vote and leave comments on YouTube, however, seem to lean toward the political hard-right (see section below). For example, YouTube has become one of the most popular outlets for Austrian School advocates to use to reach the "sheeple", such is the case with EconStories.tv and countless other libertarian advocates. While a civil debate can happen and has before, but it is not common as there is always someone that makes it uncivil.
A haven for bigots
YouTube also has an unchecked wave of white nationalists, MRAs, homophobes, the neoreactionaries, Islamophobes, anti-Semites, Neo-Nazis and the occasional genuine fascist sympathizer,[note 2] who, when they're called out on their bigotry, play the "persecution" card in the comments section without much blowback. One can post videos bashing feminism or moaning about "Reverse black on white crime" and get a huge percentage of "like" votes. Videos advocating any viewpoint that deviates from the Paulbot standard (unless part of an organized channel) tend to be voted down en masse.
Bizarrely enough it is not uncommon to see these positions combined with anti-theism, as New Atheism is fairly popular on the site. Then again, YouTube users aren't one monolithic group, and fundamentalists aren't exactly uncommon either.
Numerous other websites now host free video content, often specified around themes. There's Tangle (aka. GodTube), a Christian-themed video site and PopModal, the Republican (or "pro-American") answer to YouTube, a whole slew of pornographic YouTube clones (RedTube, YouPorn, Pornotube, etc.),[note 3] , PewTube (an alt-right version of YouTube) and dozens more that should really be mentioned but would take a while to track down. It's interesting to note how many of these sites (other than the porn ones) actually just stream YouTube's content; clearly bandwidth and server space are totally non-partisan.
Conspiracy theorists, not being able to get their ideas on the mainstream media, rely relentlessly on websites like YouTube to get their "ideas" to the world. The problem with this is that is their videos are usually well received and people debunking these theories are spread few and far between. If you look at most of their videos, their titles (which are often in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS) are usually misleading or exaggerated. For example, if it says "KATY PERRY ADMITS SHE SOLD HER SOUL TO THE DEVIL", the quote is usually a figure of speech. If it shows something like "Scientists expose chemtrails", then the speeches are usually edited, cut and manipulated.
Many titles are deliberately misleading on YouTube, in that it gets the author more hits. A conspiracy theorist can make a video titles "BARACK OBAMA TOLD BY THE ILLUMINATI ABOUT CHEMTRAILS - CAUGHT ON TAPE", and when selected, the viewer get a series of out of context news reports, portions of alleged documents, etc., that have nothing to do with the video's title. This is known as clickbait, used as a marketing strategy for YouTube "channels" to gain "views" (and in come cases, ad revenue).
Frequently, conspiracy theorists will upload videos that are several hours long, probably because said conspiracy theorists, and their fanbases, have nothing better to do with their lives.
Conspiracy Theorists reveal... Youtube is the Illuminati
Yep, they finally ran out of stuff to cry about, and now they're attacking their own haven. Needless to say, YouTube has so many videos about the Illuminati, NWO, etc that it's hard to comprehend people even believe this. Wouldn't they, er... remove the videos? Or better yet, close down YouTube and get rid of the entire problem?[note 4] Or even better, why would they let something like YouTube be created in the first place? While a few conspiracy videos have been removed from YouTube (usually for
exposing the powers that be hate speech or otherwise violating the community guidelines), many of them are re-uploaded to other sites like Bitchute, where they live on without issue. Thus, whining and moaning about being "censored" on YouTube is a moot point for more reasons than one.
All in all, if you see a movie with yellow subtitles, a specific, eerie atmosphere and extremely ambiguous content which doesn't seem to be apparent at first glance, you should probably hit X in the upper-right corner of your screen to avoid wasting your time, or worse, losing brain matter.
YouTube is required to comply with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), a piece of U.S. legislation from 1998 passed partially in response to the legal situation of many websites becoming increasingly untenable. The DMCA protects sites that host user-submitted content from legal liability for copyright infringement in return for providing a system for quickly removing infringing material in response to a complaint from a rights owner, called a "takedown request" or a "removal notice". The law does not provide for any due process or a way to stop the removal. The only way to reinstate the video is to file a legal document called a "counter-notice", after which the copyright owner is required to take the case to court. This system is heavily abused by copyright holders to remove criticism and content they do not like, as well as for simple extortion. On the other hand, YouTube is not completely passive and does sometimes push back against fraudulent takedowns.
To make matters worse, even a frivolous DMCA takedown will result in a "copyright strike" being applied to a channel, and three strikes will result in a suspension. Several popular channels came dangerously close to shutting down because of this rule.
Another controversial system is Content ID, which automatically detects snippets of copyrighted movies and songs in uploaded material and triggers one of three outcomes: the video is either blocked, the ads on the video are blocked, or the ad revenue from the video is redirected to the copyright holder. This system is also abused by copyright holders, who use it to steal ad revenue from videos that are clearly fair use. On the other hand, it has allowed a massive number of obscure pirated uploads to remain on YouTube, because it makes more financial sense for copyright owners to collect ad revenue from them than to take them down.
Advertisers are leaving en masse due to their ads' being shown on videos by extremists,[note 5] leading to their being allowed to boycott vague categories of content producers as of April 2017. This has proven a problem as many content creators were just scraping by before the adpocalypse, and this has caused revenue to decline for some users by up to 80%. Patreon has soared as a result in the fanbase's attempt to keep channels up. There was a minor controversy where YouTube was accused of banning Patreon links, but this was actually an anti-spam measure where all end card links were removed unless the channel was submitted for manual review, and didn't affect links in the video description.
In an effort to counteract this, Google introduced a new bot to search for advertiser-unfriendly content. The bot was designed to "learn from its mistakes": it flags tons of videos, then
ignores you completely learns from creator sending in appeals and improves its algorithm thusly. The problem with this is that one can only send in an appeal if the video got 1000 views in the last week- so if it's an old video or from a smaller channel, you're SOL. As a result of this, the bot isn't learning from its mistakes, since it thinks that it did it right when it isn't appealed.
As of January 2020, YouTube requires creators to comply with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA, due to YouTube receiving a fine of $170 million from the FTC since they used trackers to display targeted ads towards children. Videos marked as aimed at kids will not be monetized, and they will have their comments turned off. For those asking questions if the said videos can potentially have a kid appeal but is not directed specifically at kids, YouTube makes a clear distinction between videos aimed at a general audience and videos specifically aimed at kids. Of course, if channel creators do not assign appropriate tags to their videos, YouTube assigns bots to flag videos as marked towards children, and you can guess the results of that. While content creators can legally be fined up to $40,000 dollars if their channels do not comply, this is unlikely to happen to most content creators, as the laws are mainly directed at a few very amount of creators swindling kids for money using deceptive videos.
- Twitter, which is full of even bigger bigots
- Instagram, which is full of even bigger idiots
- Natural spikes in activity are, of course, expected to happen with YouTube videos (say, if the video was posted to a popular blog and its views were boosted for a day or two) but these aren't usually accompanied with a corresponding spike in the actual rating.
- Pretty much of every episode of Internet Comment Etiquette on Internet Comment Etiquette with Erik illustrates and satirizes this.
- Like you didn't already know that, you sick little monkey.
- Ah, but if they remove the videos, then people would get suspicious, wouldn't they?
- This is why we can't have nice things.
- Justin Timberlake on Janet Jackson Super Bowl aftermath, BBC
- Karim, USAToday
- How botting works on YouTube: A breakdown, The Daily Dot
- One example in response to this article
- Tangle and GodTube. They both redirect to the same page.
- "PopModal — a Pro-American Video Community"
- An article mocking PopModal—and from the Torygraph, no less!
- Using YouTube Takedowns As Extortion, TechDirt
- YouTube is rejecting fraudulent DMCA takedown notices and threatening to terminate the accounts of people sending them, Reddit thread
- It’s Time to Fight Back Against Those Who Abuse YouTube’s Content ID Copyright Tool
- YouTube Says Patreon Links Are Not Banned on YouTube
- This video is about TF2 specifically, but it does a good job explaining the problem
- Graham, David (Dec 16 2019). A Lawyer Explains the Very Messy Way YouTube Is Handling Videos for Kids. Vox. Retrieved January 24, 2020.
- Determining if your content is "made for kids".