You Tube – Clean Up or Censorship?

hot off the press…

A YouTube for All of Us
As a community, we have come to count on each other to be entertained, challenged, and moved by what we watch and share on YouTube. We’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to make the collective YouTube experience even better, particularly on our most visited pages. Our goal is to help ensure that you’re viewing content that’s relevant to you, and not inadvertently coming across content that isn’t. Here are a few things we came up with:

* Stricter standard for mature content – While videos featuring pornographic images or sex acts are always removed from the site when they’re flagged, we’re tightening the standard for what is considered “sexually suggestive.” Videos with sexually suggestive (but not prohibited) content will be age-restricted, which means they’ll be available only to viewers who are 18 or older. To learn more about what constitutes “sexually suggestive” content, click here.

* Demotion of sexually suggestive content and profanity – Videos that are considered sexually suggestive, or that contain profanity, will be algorithmically demoted on our ‘Most Viewed,’ ‘Top Favorited,’ and other browse pages. The classification of these types of videos is based on a number of factors, including video content and descriptions. In testing, we’ve found that out of the thousands of videos on these pages, only several each day are automatically demoted for being too graphic or explicit. However, those videos are often the ones which end up being repeatedly flagged by the community as being inappropriate.

* Improved thumbnails – To make sure your thumbnail represents your video, your choices will now be selected algorithmically. You’ll still have three thumbnails to choose from, but they will no longer be auto-generated from the 25/50/75 points in the video index.

* More accurate video information – Our Community Guidelines have always prohibited folks from attempting to game view counts by entering misleading information in video descriptions, tags, titles, and other metadata. We remain serious about enforcing these rules. Remember, violations of these guidelines could result in removal of your video and repeated violations will lead to termination of your account.

The preservation and improvement of the YouTube experience is a responsibility we share. Let’s work together to ensure that the YouTube community continues to thrive as a positive place for all of us.

The YouTube Team

Brief Editorial:
by Zack Scott

1. Why should videos be demoted on profanity alone? Why not just hide them for people not logged in and are 18 or older?

2. Some of YouTube‘s most popular stars…Bo Burnham, Charles Trippy, sXePhil, Chris Crocker, Mark Day, etc…(name as many as you want) all have used profanity.

3. The new thumbnail idea sucks. Now what if none of the thumbnails are good?

4. YouTube sometimes features videos with profanity.


OK, now I finally understand YouTube’s “Stricter standard for mature content”

“Videos that are considered sexually suggestive, or that contain profanity, will be algorithmically demoted on our ‘Most Viewed,’ ‘Top Favorited,’ and other browse pages.”

They must not like sXePhil.

39 Replies to “You Tube – Clean Up or Censorship?”

  1. Well, I’m delighted to see profane and sexual videos kicked in the butt. Since my videos are typically neither, they’ll go up in the ranks because of this. Heck, since there are only about 8 YouTubers who don’t include profanity in their stuff, I’m almost guaranteed a top spot now.

    The thumbnail issue is the only one that I’m seriously upset over. Thumbnails are part of how we brand our channels. Removing the option to pick a thumbnail is quite possibly the biggest mistake YouTube has ever made.

    We’ll see how this pans out.

  2. @2

    We’re all screwed.

    As I just wrote in my blog (Thank you auto-ping for posting that link!) I use that center frame for branding purposes. When I make a video, I try to put a quality representation of what’s in the video at one of the three 25/50/75 points. But now, it looks like YouTube will be eliminating those as reference points.

    This really sucks, because while people can no longer just put a hot babe in the center of their video, it also means that my next video, which I edited to have a relevant center frame, is pointlessly edited.

    I wanted YouTube to give me several more options for a center frame, and they took the options away.

    It’s their site, but this leaves a foul taste in my mouth.

  3. Viral Video to the one who does a whole video that has nothing, but bleeps – Title: F#($ You Tube Profanity Censorship!!!!!

    If You Tube abided by their own rules, half the YOU in YouTube would be gone. I guess they have enough corporate sponsorship now to take those chances.

    Couple of points.
    1. Smart timing, right before the holidays when viewership is at its higest.

    2. Google You Tube is self-regulating. The online audience is growing; more so after the digital switch. Congress will be asked to step in and regulate, this is in part an attempt to prevent that or show they are working on the issue.

    3. The argument could be made that You Tube should have done most of this from the get go. Of course they wouldn’t be as popular as they are now, or it may have taken longer to get there, profanity and porn are the foundation stones of online activity. It wasn’t until 2006 that mp3s out ranked porn for downloads.

    4. It will be interesting to see how creators deal with the profanity issue – two versions of your videos? One bleeped, one uncensored? Link in the side bar to my uncensored web page with tons of ads. Could be some short term profits for a few creators. Also some opportunities for places like blip, revver, livevideo for uncensored versions of their work. Depending on what’s in their contracts Phil and Michael could do really well if they manage this correctly.

    5. The thumbnail issues is petty.

    6. “More accurate video information” You Tube will have to hire a lot more people or start a team of volunteer “watchers” which could end up being as bad or worse than Wikipedia.

    7. “We’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to make the collective YouTube experience even better” ” The YouTube Team”
    I really hate corporate speak, it always seems so cowardly to me when people who have the responsibility don’t sign their names. It demonstrates contempt for their customers and adds a greater backlash from the consumer.

    Nice .jpg Zack.
    That’s all I got for now.

  4. There’s absolutely no reason they can’t have some option for people to filter certain results from their searches. As far as censoring who goes on the Top lists, well, this is a pretty explicit statement that they’re willing to manipulate what gets seen. The dynamic system we’ve had all along is what actually showed us what we wanted to see.

  5. This is bullshit. Completely bullshit. They have just alienated 80% of their audience.

    I have stood by and let Youtube change without so much as a peep, but this is too far. I feel like I’m leaving Art School and going BACK to that conservative crap High School in the South that I was forced to go to.

    How far are they going to take this? Will they forget that they FEATURED videos like the 8-year-old from the Bastard Fairies 2 years ago? Will they forget that almost ALL of their top original creators got there BECAUSE there are no rules?

    I love clever content. Most of the channels I subscribe to are “G-rated”, but if they are going to try and control one of the most useful things on the internet, ie. FREE SPEACH then for the first time I don’t see any need to go to Youtube anymore.

    I could care less about all of the sexually explicit content. People who go to Youtube for it are useless anyway. Take it away. But the Profanity deal? What are they going to do? Make us take down our videos? There has GOT to be a double digit percentage to lose there.

    One of my good friends is James Rolfe, AKA the Angry Video Game Nerd. He BUILT HIS CAREER on Profanity, and very creatively at that. He’s harmless, his videos are harmless, and if parents don’t want their 13-year-old kids watching them that is their problem.

    I want to know who is behind this. I want to know ho much they paid and who go the money. This isn’t about swearing, this is taking the kid out of public school and putting them in Catholic School while they’re still eating their lunch.

    Who are they trying to “protect”? Kids? Have they even USED the internet their site is on?

  6. The bots (be they software or carbon-based) who run YT can’t distinguish between a diaper-wearing baby with no top (shirt) and a topless babe. Let the sweepout of ‘pornographic’ grandmothers disgusting us with videos of their diapered grandbabbies begin! The purge will be good for the collective (i.e advertisers’) experience.

  7. My latest series on redneckedness in the piney woods is doomed by the profanity edict. The collective is biased against redneck speech! It’s a culture war! A redneck pogrom!

    Sure, get rid of the breasteses (sic) if you dare, YT bots, but leave the rednecks alone!

  8. There is no way that this new “scheme” of theirs will work correctly for YT. I predict that it will disenfranchise more creators and viewers; what about comments? Are those going to be censored (more than they already are by the community) now as well?

    I like the idea of no more sexually explicit thumbnails just to get views, yet I also agree with scmj that some YT creators who have gotten used to perfecting the thumbnail (like Nalts’ “markers up the nose” thumbnail, for example) will have a harder time editing their videos.

    And jischinger’s argument that YT is doing this preemptively to avoid later scrutiny by Congress holds water as well.

    What do you think, Kevin?

  9. It should come as no surprise to you all that the profanity thing really pisses me off. I don’t even USE profanity in my videos (they’re all of my kid) but I’d still like the option to open a channel just for me where I say whatever I think, and you know how profane that will be.

    Also, who determines what’s profane? Is the word “piss” profane? Is the word “screwed” profane? Whatever software they plan on using is not going to be able to distinguish when those words are used “innocently” and when they are used in a profane context.

    I understand the thumbnail controversy too, although it doesn’t affect me since I don’t take the time to edit my videos for a great thumbnail. They should do the downgrading on videos with thumbnails that have nothing to do with the content of the video – if they’re going to do anything at all.

    Sounds like a grassroots campaign to bombard youtube’s blog with complaints is necessary here. Or to do vlogs on the subject. It worked with the comment fuck-up they did about a year and a half ago.

  10. There has to be a better solution to the thumbnail. Although I am not yet a video contributor to YT, I am an huge consumer and agree the perfect thumbnail does make me want to click and watch.

    As for the use of profanity. I hope they come up with a rating system that allows the user to know if there is profanity in the video. I know a lot of people will disagree with me on this point, but I have a 3 year boy at home that I would prefer not hear this language. I also enjoy watching YT vids in the family seated in my recliner where he is usually in ear shot, but have resorted to wearing ear buds especially when watching certain contributors videos. I DO NOT want censorship, just warn me ahead of time so I can properly prepare.

    Yea Kevin, you wrote this article but conveniently omitted your opinion. What say you?

  11. It looks like this could be the most active YouTube blog ever, with a whopping 1,400 responses so far (compared to the 10-100 they usually draw).

    Time for an episode of “What Will YouTube Do”. Here are the options:

    a) Clarify the situation, and explain WHY they’ve suddenly grown a conscience after three+ years of virtually endorsing boobs and swearing.
    b) Apologize for moving too suddenly on this one, and offer to back off a bit.
    c) Revise their plan to reflect what the 1400+ commenters would like to see.
    d) Ban sXePhil, making this a non-issue
    e) Do absolutely nothing, and act as if nobody has responded to their post at all. The next blog will feature Big Joe’s favorite Christmas recipe.

    Cast your votes, folks!

    For the record, in case someone from YouTube reads this (and now that Nalts and Hurley are bosom buddies, that might happen – wait, will saying bosom get me in trouble?) I respect that it’s their site, and that they can do whatever the heck they want. But is it really good policy to shoot your “tribe” in the foot? I’d think not.

  12. Feh! They didn’t do anything new with MY thumbnails. I uploaded a video yesterday, and they STILL only offered me 25/50/75. I seriously ended up with a thumbnail with a tiny picture of Nalts on my computer in it! You can barely tell who it is, but I know…I KNOW.

  13. @15
    Tuesday. It was Tuesday. Right after they completed their year long PanderingToTheLeftWingWhackos Year of The GayFest. Everybody gets a turn.

    BTW, I’ve seen several videos of YouTubeLive posted to Youtube. Posted and running. Where are yours?

  14. @9. What happens when a bot makes a mistake on a video and deems it profanity?

    How will the creator know? What remedy will there be if you suspect?

    You can’t reach anyone at YouTube now, this will just piss more people off.

    @11. oooooo comments, didn’t even cross my mind. Shield their eyes! We must protect the children!

    I don’t get the thumbnail deal, it’s not like YouTube wants to be fair, Why not offer a wide selection like blip or revver. They are already cutting sex vids, so they say.. and there are just few trick videos it’s just very petty, I’m suspicious, and beginning to think You Tube wants to get rid of everyone, but large corps and those who already have a big audience. So why? More bandwidth for HDF users? Clear out the lawsuits and settle? Corporate take overs? There has to be a reason for the clean up. YouTube could have done this long ago, even after Google bought them.

    @12. see @14 😉

    @13. You Tube could have warned you years ago.

    @14 e. One caveat, they will make some shit up.

    @15 Just a theory: During the Bush years maybe YouTube was an outlet for all the liberal misanthropes, now that the right wing is out of office and up shit’s creek perhaps YouTube will be the Family Channel for the new misanthropes. If there isn’t a way for the populous to vent you might end up with a revolution on your hands.

    Let’s not forget Google is an Al Gore company, well basically, 40%.

  15. Oh, great, they’re removing the porn.

    Now where am I going to get off?

    On a more serious note, I’ve had problems with the thumbnails for quite a while, I haven’t had a thumbnail I really liked in quite some time, and I’ve tried really hard to get a good thumbnail. I guess this means I can be lazier in my editing.

  16. I just want to point out a little earlier the You Tube’s front page was full of copyright thumbnails and videos.

    As for sexual suggestive, Britney’s new video thumbnail should be on that ban list, but of course it’s not.

    All things being equal, some just more than others.
    Goooooooooooooooooooooooo You Tube!

    knock knock…

  17. I think there is a fine line here between what is content filtering and what is censorship. I don’t know that filtering certain content off lists like Most Discussed is necessarily a bad thing. I have issues with the vagueness – What “browse” pages will be affected? Will search be filtered too? I have issues with a company that has a past history of poor change implementation trying to use technology to accomplish something that may be better served by human eyes and ears. I have an issue with software choosing thumbnails – this seems like a focus on fixing the boob center shot gaming issue and not paying attention to portion of your user base that d tries to artfully use the thumbnail in the hopes of increasing their chance of getting secondary video views through search, browse, and related content.

    No where have I seen anyone say they would be censoring the actual language in a video. No beeps will be added. Is it a next logical step? I suppose it’s possible, but it seems unlikely. I think this is actually their attempt to gain some modicum of control over the flagging system that is no doubt insanely impossible to work with.

  18. @ 17- I just went for the free stuff… I never said I would post anything from there. I did post one and they informed me that I couldn’t monetize it so I didn’t bother editing the rest.

  19. You know what bums me out the most? The auto thumbnail generator. This just means I’m going to have to upload 3 times (using slightly different file sizes) to make sure my thumbnail doesn’t suck.

  20. I’m going to go ahead and say it: I’m not upset. I have already accepted the idea that I have no chance at being featured. I had already attributed it to my foul mouth and controversial nature, and a local radio dj brings up my foul mouth when he talks about me, saying he doesn’t play my clips because I make stuff that is sometimes just impossible for radio. Granted, I think I have cut back a bit, but I am unwilling to say “I will not curse.”

    As long as I am still allowed to post that – even if it’s kept away from the full YT audience – I’m fine. I even feel that this is in some ways good, because I don’t make videos for kids. I don’t want kids watching my videos, either, unless they are being watched with a parent to explain what a kid might take literally and therefore incorrectly. I put morals into my videos, I think, but I honestly put them there because adults are idiots and don’t have common sense – and the ones that do enjoy the laughs at their expense.

    I don’t expect to ever get on “today’s most viewed,” and I have planned around that. I an basically building a base of people who enjoy my stuff and share it with others. That is how I am doing better each month, because I have never had anything go viral quick enough to chart.

    I make stuff that isn’t for 60-80% of YouTube’s audience and I’m well aware of that, and as long as I am allowed to keep doing what I’m doing, 18+ labels probably won’t hurt me. There will ALWAYS be a market for it, and this is why South Park is still on, still a hit, still doing very well with ad dollars, and has its creators in a 50 million dollar contract until 2015 with renewal options.

    Yes, they are on later than the majority of tv audiences care to watch and have a reputation for being filthy, but people figure out ways to watch them.

  21. Peter,

    The only problem is that YouTube is making it difficult for you to reach that 20-40% who love your stuff. Random thumbnails, dropping people off the lists for profanity use. And 20% of the millions of folks who visit YouTube would still be a good number, but they can’t find the true talent anymore. That’s one of the reasons I just started a new program to feature the little guys on YouTube. Great talent aught to be seen, even if they don’t have a lot of subs, and YouTube is bent against them.

  22. Well, if it’s anything like every other announcement besides widescreen, they’ve already been doing it for a month.

    I notice nothing different today. Still crappy sxephil videos in the top 10, loaded with profanity. I really have a feeling it’s going to be less severe than people think – in a similar way to almost every “restriction on our free speech” on YouTube in the past.

    The reaction people are giving to this widespread, I find pretty childish. I see all over the net people getting outraged over a video site and the policies they are completely free to implement. It’s going to make things a bit harder, yes, but I really don’t see how it is going to be THAT much harder for people who aren’t already megastars. We don’t get thrown bones anyway.

    The only way I would be honestly upset about this is if it was due to government intervention. THAT would make me shit angry bricks.

    I hate to be “that guy” on this one, but come on. YouTube is a business now whether people want to accept it or not. They are going to make concessions and rules. Man up and adjust or stop making YouTube videos. True success is 99% perseverance, 1% luck.

    I say fuck that 1%. I’m doing what I’ve always done, even before YouTube.

  23. Woah, why all the backlash on the censorship?

    YouTube’s just trying to clean up the Most Viewed/Discussed pages for nice, safe, sterile, corporate-friendly content like your good friend Nalts makes.

    Nalts will be on the top of those lists now, you should be happy for him.

  24. @35

    I’m mostly just playing devil’s advocate here. Like you, the folks who watch my stuff aren’t the YT key demographic, and I don’t plan on trying to win over the 13 year olds any time soon.

    I agree that most of success is persevering, but it’s also nice when your content outlet doesn’t make it more of a challenge.

    The profanity thing doesn’t bug me. I think in my whole 90-some video history, the worst I’ve used on camera is “crap”. The only thing that really bugs me is that center frame issue. I enjoy the challenge of getting just the right shot to hit dead center, so this whole random frame thing is a little bit of a drag on my party. But even that isn’t a big deal.

    Like you said, the best advice is to keep on producing content. That’s my plan as well.


    Careful there bud, your sarcasm is splattering all over the walls. 😀

  25. Remember forever my friends, “soon youtube shall just be a memory”! Steve Chen say this “violations of these guidelines could result in removal of your video and repeated violations will lead to termination of your account”. This mean that “YouTube dig one’s own grave” and many user switched up to dailymotion!
    YouTube destroy not only his onw future but also his great success. Its hard to understand that YouTube is Doomed !

  26. No one is going to take you seriously when you say “YouTube is dying” if you follow it up with “that DailyMotion sure is swell!”

    If anything actually manages to kill YouTube, it will be Hulu or something like it. There will come a time when people tire of shitty produced and written content. Either YouTube grows with it with a big all star roster that produces it’s own quality content that is very well written, very well executed, and decently produced content. Notice I said DECENT with the production. It doesn’t have to look like a studio film, but believe me, there will be a shift.

    Notice vlogging dying down more? Pretty sure I said it would. Vlogging is a dime a dozen and will become the secondary form of internet entertainment. It is going to be the radio to produced content’s television.

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