Unlike criticism of the videos it recommends to users, YouTube seems to have a new favorite talk point, one that may surprise someone Who spent time online: Extreme content, says the company, does it just not so good on the website.
The strange claim came up on Tuesday when Bloomberg published a survey claiming that YouTube ignored employee warnings about how the platform was promoting toxic videos, with leaders prioritizing engagement across all other goals. A spokesman challenged this characterization and told Bloomberg that "generally extreme content does not work well on the platform."
This expresses a statement that YouTube's main product manager Neal Mohan gave in a recent interview in the New York Times on online radicalization. Asking if YouTube recommendations turn viewers into a "rabbit hole" of extremism, Mohan said the platform's system is not designed to do so. "It's not that" extreme content "drives a higher version of engagement or viewing time than content of other types," Mohan said.
This leads us to believe Mohan hasn't spent much time on YouTube or has a very different definition of "extreme content" than we do. Because even a clear-cut review of YouTube shows that the most shocking and inflammatory videos are regularly among the most exquisite content in the news.
Take, for example, Fox News & # 39; YouTube Channel. Some of the most watched videos are: Armed with kitchen knives, police officers attack; "Shots kicked!" Bodycam video captures attacker attacks; Shocking video showing American soldiers shot down at Jordan military base; Warning, graphic video: Deadly gun duel in the middle of the street; and the all-racial Watters World: Chinatown edition.
But it's not just conservative-leaning media. CNN's most watched YouTube videos include: Alleged ISIS executions in Iraq; Video shows students are hiding as shots are fired; Brutal terrorist video borrows Hollywood techniques; New ISIS combat video released; ISIS militant post new execution video; and Florida school shooter's disturbing social media posts.
Do the same search on a far right channel such as Breitbart or a left-handed channel like The Young Turks, and you will find extreme videos are among the most seen there too. And then there is the Daily Mail, which exists in its own category of blatant tabloid sensationalism.
Other platforms often admit that the weakest and most extreme content is regularly the most popular on social media. In a blog post that was published in November, Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote:
One of the biggest problems social networks face is that when they become uncontrolled, people will engage disproportionately with more sensational and provocative content. This is not a new phenomenon. It is widespread on cable news today and has been a staple of tabloids for more than a century. In scale, it can undermine the quality of public discourse and lead to polarization.
His blog continued to explain that Facebook's research had shown that "wherever we draw the lines for what is allowed, when a content gets close to that line, people will engage in it on average – even when they tell us afterwards, they do not like the content. "Zuckerberg illustrated this with a graph:
We are not sure what YouTube's definition of" extreme content "is. The company did not respond to a Gizmodo request for comment. It is possible that the company's latest statements on extreme content only referred to political extremism. But if almost any other kind of extreme content works well on almost any other platform, it's hard to believe that politically extreme content on YouTube would be the exception.
The Bloomberg story contains a disturbing anecdote from early 2018. According to the News Release, a YouTube employee created an internal video category to demonstrate how popular all-right content was on the site. "Based on commitment put the hypothetical all-right category with music, sports and games as the most popular channels on YouTube," Bloomberg reports.
YouTube will have greater success in issues of misinformation, toxic content, and radicalization on the platform if it stops ignoring the realities of sensationalism in the media. Shoot against it: Shit floats and if it bleeds, it leads.