How YouTube Is Responding to Recent Controversies Over Ad Placement, Restricted Mode

YouTube has been under fire of late, most recently from ad giant Havas Worldwide and the LGBTQ community

YouTube late Monday responded to recent flaps over ads being placed adjacent to controversial content and its Restricted Mode blocking content from the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning/queer) and other communities.

Ad agency Havas Worldwide announced late last week that it was putting a halt on ad spending on YouTube and Google, parent company of the video site, in the U.K., due to ads appearing alongside content from sources such as white nationalists and terrorists.

YouTube vice president of product management Ariel Bardin addressed the issue in a blog post, saying that the video site was taking steps including toughening its stance on hate speech, giving advertisers more control over where their ads appear, speeding up the appeals process for creators whose videos are demonetized, rolling out safeguards for creators and re-emphasizing its commitment to diversity.

Bardin detailed the changes in his blog post:

  • Tougher stance on hate speech: Both creators and advertisers are concerned about hate speech and so are we. To protect the livelihoods of our creators and to strengthen advertiser confidence, we will be implementing broader demonetization policies around videos that are perceived to be hateful or inflammatory. This includes removing ads more effectively from content that is harassing or attacking people based on their race, religion, gender or similar categories.
  • Strengthening advertiser controls for video and display ads: In the coming weeks, we will add new advertiser controls that make it easier for brands to exclude higher-risk content and fine-tune where they want their ads to appear.
  • Accelerating appeals: Today, any creator whose video is demonetized can launch an appeal to have their video reviewed. Moving forward, we plan to improve the process so that reviews can happen even faster.
  • Safeguarding creators in our YouTube Partner Program: Since we rolled out the YouTube Partner Program 10 years ago, it has enabled millions of creators to earn revenue and build a new generation of emerging media businesses. We want to protect our creators, so we will be introducing new YPP safeguards to prevent abuse that hurts their earnings, like the impersonation of their channels.
  • Restating our commitment to diversity: Groups that have long been underrepresented in traditional media have used YouTube to reach new audiences, increasing empathy and tolerance while providing a lifeline of support to diverse communities. We stand by our diverse creators and communities and their right to express themselves. Recently, we’ve heard concerns that some LGBTQ content may be restricted from the small subset of users who have optionally chosen to enable YouTube’s Restricted Mode. Earlier today we posted a blog that further explains how this feature works, and we’re committed to ensuring our systems don’t discriminate.

The blog post mentioned in Bardin’s final bullet point was penned by fellow vp of product management Johanna Wright, and it addressed recent issues with YouTube’s Restricted Mode:

Over the past several months—and most definitely over the past few days from LGBTQ and other communities—we’ve gotten lots of questions around what Restricted Mode is and how it works. We understand that this has been confusing and upsetting, and many of you have raised concerns about Restricted Mode and your content being unfairly impacted. The bottom line is that this feature isn’t working the way it should. We’re sorry, and we’re going to fix it.

We introduced Restricted Mode in 2010 as an optional feature to help institutions like schools, as well as people who wanted to better control the content they see on YouTube. We designed this feature to broadly restrict content across more mature topics, whether these are videos that contain profanity, those that depict images or descriptions of violence or discussion of certain diseases like addictions and eating disorders. Today, about 1.5 percent of YouTube’s daily views come from people who have Restricted Mode turned on. But we know this isn’t about numbers; it’s about the principle of anyone having access to important content and different points of view. You can read more about how Restricted Mode works here.

Our system sometimes makes mistakes in understanding context and nuances when it assesses which videos to make available in Restricted Mode. For instance, the following videos are examples of where we got it wrong:

While the system will never be 100 percent perfect, as we said up top, we must and will do a better job. Thanks to your feedback, we’ve manually reviewed the example videos mentioned above and made sure they’re now available in Restricted Mode. We’ll also be using this input to better train our systems. It will take time to fully audit our technology and roll out new changes, so please bear with us. There’s nothing more important to us than being a platform where anyone can belong, have a voice and speak out when they believe something needs to be changed. We truly appreciate your help keeping the YouTube community active and engaged on topics that matter to creators and YouTube fans alike.

Image courtesy of cnythzl/iStock.

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