YouTube just took down 11.4 million videos to keep internet safe

As the video-streaming site YouTube safeguards its personnel during the pandemic, it has become more reliant on software to enforce content rules, which includes removing harmful videos. But without humans making the judgment call, some videos that do not actually violate policies ended up being taken down along with those that do.
PHOTO/S: commons.wikimedia.org

YouTube said Tuesday, August 25, that the number of videos it removed from the site in the second quarter of this year has soared.

A little more than 11.4 million videos have been pulled from the popular online platform, nearly double the number removed in the first three months of the year, setting a new quarterly record for the Google-owned company.

As the company safeguards its personnel during the pandemic, it has become more reliant on software to take the place of people in enforcing content rules.

YouTube says in a blog post that it was "forced to make a choice between potential under-enforcement or potential over-enforcement" because, with COVID-19, the human capacity to review videos had been "greatly reduced."

And it chose to "cast a wider net so that the most content that could potentially harm the community would be quickly removed."

In effect, the video-streaming site was admitting that, without humans making the judgment calls, some videos that do not actually violate policies were also taken down.

YouTube, in short, chose to err on the side of caution.

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The company, reported Agence France Presse, said that it has dedicated extra resources for reviewing take-down appeals, which doubled from the previous quarter, although the company calculates that these numbers remained less than three percent of the total.

At the same time, in decisions to remove content involving violence, extremism, and child safety, YouTube tolerated a lower level of accuracy.

This resulted in the tripling of the number of videos pulled for breaking those rules, the report said.

About a third of all videos removed in the second quarter was to keep from endangering children with such content, including dares or challenges that could get them hurt.

Another 28 percent of the pulled videos violated rules against spam, scams, and misleading content, according to the report.

COVID-19 and what happens to its curve are expected to determine the next developments on YouTube.

"We are continuing to improve the accuracy of our systems," YouTube said, adding, "as reviewers are able to come back to work, we are deploying them to the highest impact areas."

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As the video-streaming site YouTube safeguards its personnel during the pandemic, it has become more reliant on software to enforce content rules, which includes removing harmful videos. But without humans making the judgment call, some videos that do not actually violate policies ended up being taken down along with those that do.
PHOTO/S: commons.wikimedia.org
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