Tag Archives: YouTube

YouTube Allows Users More Control Over Suggested Videos



YouTube posted information today about ways they are giving users more control over their Homepage and Up Next videos. This appears to be done in response to users telling YouTube that they wanted more control over what they see.

Connecting our users with the content they love is important to us. We want to help viewers find new interests and passions – such as a new favorite artist, a new creator they can follow or simply the best food recipes. But there’s one true expert in what you want to watch: you. One thing we’ve consistently heard from you is that you want more control over what videos appear on your homepage and in Up Next suggestions. So we’re doing more to put you in the driver’s seat.

YouTube mentions three specific changes they are rolling out in the coming days.

Explore topics and related videos on your Homepage and in Up Next videos: YouTube is making it easier for people to explore topics and related videos. The options you see could be related to the video you are watching, videos published by the channel you’re watching, or other topics that may be of interest to you.

Remove suggestions from channels you don’t want to watch: YouTube has made it simple for you to tell them to stop suggesting videos from a particular channel. Just tap a three-dot menu next to a video on the Homepage or Up Next, then “Don’t recommend channel.” After that, you should no longer see videos from that channel suggested to you on YouTube. This feature is available globally on the YouTube app for Android and iOS and will be available on desktop soon.

Learn more about why a video may be suggested to you: YouTube will post information underneath a video suggested to you in a small box. It provides an explanation about why YouTube selected that video for you. This feature is now available globally on the YouTube app for iOS and will be available on Android and desktop soon.

Personally, I think this is a step in the right direction. Giving users more control over the videos that are suggested to them will likely make people more interested in using YouTube. Parents whose children no longer watch YouTube Kids might be able to use these new tools as a filter on YouTube.


Most Children who Watch YouTube Don’t Use YouTube Kids



The YouTube Kids app was designed for children who were age 13 or younger. According to Bloomberg, most of the children who are watching YouTube don’t use YouTube Kids.

Children who do watch YouTube Kids tend to shift over to YouTube’s main site before they hit thirteen, according to multiple people at YouTube familiar with internal data. One person who works on the app said the departures typically happen around age seven. In India, YouTube’s biggest market by volume, usage of the Kids app is negligible, according to this employee. These people asked not to be identified discussing private information.

The article also noted that many parents don’t know the difference between YouTube and YouTube Kids. So, it’s entirely possible that the children of those parents are watching the main YouTube – which is definitely not designed for kids to watch.

Children who leave YouTube Kids and start watching the main YouTube don’t want to go back to YouTube Kids. The main complaint appears to be that these children see YouTube Kids as “babyish”. They aren’t wrong about that. One of the biggest YouTube Kids channels is called Cocomelon. It is a channel of nursery rhymes.

Parents need to decide for themselves how comfortable they are about allowing their children to watch the main YouTube instead of the kid version. It wouldn’t be very hard for a child to accidentally come across disturbing content simply by clicking on the videos that an algorithm suggests to them. This is not to say that everything on YouTube Kids is entirely safe for children, as it has had some not-safe-for-kids content. YouTube has worked to try and remove that content.

Parents who are concerned about what their children are watching on YouTube have a few options. The way to have the most control is for the parent to pre-screen YouTube videos and then watch those videos with their child. Doing so will take time, but will enable a parent to replace the YouTube algorithm with their own, personal, judgement about what is safe for their child to watch.


Trump Administration Launches Tool to Report Censorship



The Trump Administration has launched a web survey for people to use if they feel they have been wrongly censored on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or YouTube. The survey was created with the online form-building tool Typeform. The first page of the survey says:

SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS should advance FREEDOM OF SPEECH. Yet too many Americans have seen their accounts suspended, banned, or fraudulently reported for unclear “violations” of user policies. No matter your views, if you suspect political bias caused such an action to be taken against you, share your story with President Trump.

The Guardian reported that the survey asks users to provide their names, contact information, social media accounts, and screenshots of interactions with social media platforms. Only US citizens and permanent residents are asked to participate. The Guardian wonders what the Trump administration will do – and what it won’t do – with the names and contact information of the people who fill out the survey.

Typeform tweeted: “We didn’t get any further than this @WhiteHouse”. The tweet included a screenshot of the question “Are you a U.S. citizen or permanent resident?” Typeform checked “no”. The Guardian reported that Typeform is based in Barcelona.

As always, it is a good idea to read a survey’s user agreement before you post any of your information into it. Ars Technica reported that the user agreement gives the Trump Administration a broad license to use the information that users post into the survey, including publishing it.

More specifically, the user agreement “grants the U.S. Government a license to use, edit, display, publish, broadcast, transmit, post, or otherwise distribute all or part of the Content (including edited, composite, or derivative works made therefrom)”.

“You waive any right to inspect or approve of any Content edited, composite or derivative works made from Content (including those which may contain your information) before use. You are not entitled to any prior notice before the U.S. Government uses Content or Information. You are not entitled to any compensation for Content.”

“You understand that Content may not be altered or deleted by you after submission, You further understand that your submission may be subject to the Federal Records Act and/or the Presidential Records Act and may be subject to public release according to those statutes.”

The Verge reported that near the end of the survey, it invites users to opt into email newsletters from President Trump “so we can update you without relying on platforms like Facebook and Twitter.”

Another part of the survey points users toward the user agreement, and states: “you understand this form is for information gathering only.” I think there are going to be a lot of disappointed people who presume that filling out the survey will instantly make their suspended or banned accounts accessible once again. In addition, some people may not realize they opted-in to a newsletter.


Amazon and Google Announce Official YouTube App to Launch on Fire TV



Amazon and Google announced that in the coming months, the two companies will launch the official YouTube app on Amazon Fire TV devices and Fire TV Edition smart TVs, as well as the Prime Video app for streaming to Chromecast and Chromecast built-in devices.

In addition, Prime Video will be broadly available across Android TV device partners, and the YouTube TV and YouTube Kids app will also come to Fire TV later this year.

The flagship YouTube app will be the easiest way for users to watch all of their favorite YouTube content on Fire TV. Users will be able to sign in to their existing YouTube account, access their full library of content, and play videos in 4K HDR at 60 fps on supported devices. In addition, standalone YouTube TV and YouTube Kids apps will also launch later this year on Fire TV devices and Fire TV Edition smart TVs where available.

Chromecast and Chromecast built-in users, along with Android TV users, will have easy access to the Prime Video catalog including the latest seasons of Amazon Originals like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Hanna, Homecoming Beach, Catastrophe and The Grand Tour, along with Amazon Original movies like Donald Glover’s Guava Island, and Academy Award nominated films like The Big Sick and Cold War.

Engadget points out that this ends “a long contentious relationship between Amazon and Google.” According to Engadget, the addition of YouTube apps only applies to Fire TV devices.


YouTube has a Content Problem



What happens when a company allows everyone to use its website to post videos of whatever they want? Some people will post videos that are filled with misinformation. Others will post videos that seem to be intended to stoke hate or to provoke viewers into causing harm to people who are different from themselves.

Bloomberg posted a detailed article that focuses on YouTube’s content problem. The article includes information from people who used to work at YouTube and/or Google.

The article points out several of YouTube’s missteps regarding content regulation. It points to the problem of videos aimed at children that included explicit content. It notes the videos that are full of misinformation (about vaccines, for example). It mentions politically motivated videos that appear to be designed to evoke outrage, (by calling survivors of mass shootings “crisis actors”, as an example).

Overall, the Bloomberg article makes it clear that YouTube has a long way to go towards cleaning up the website. Many efforts created by YouTube workers to do so were rejected. The implication is that YouTube valued growth over quality of content.

Motherboard posted an article in which they reported that YouTube has not removed videos that contain “neo-Nazi and white nationalist propaganda”. It notes that other social media giants have banned or shut down that type of content after what happened in Christchurch, New Zealand.

According to Motherboard, YouTube has demonetized some of that content and placed those videos behind a content warning. But, the videos are still searchable on YouTube.

YouTube has a content problem. Some of the most disturbing videos on YouTube can actually cause people harm. Misinformation about vaccines leads to measles outbreaks. Videos that promote hate can influence viewers to cause physical harm to other people. YouTube needs to put more effort into removing that type of content.


YouTube Turns Off Comments on Videos of Children



YouTube posted an update on their Creator Blog that provides an explanation of their actions related to the safety of minors. YouTube has disabled comments on videos featuring minors.

Over the past week, we disabled comments from tens of millions of videos that could be subject to predatory behavior. These efforts are focused on videos featuring young minors and we will continue to identify videos at risk over the next few months. Over the next few months, we will be broadening this action to suspend comments on videos featuring young minors and videos featuring older minors that could be at risk of attracting predatory behavior.

YouTube states that “a small number of creators” will be able to keep comments enabled on their videos that include minors. Those channels will be required to actively moderate their comments, beyond just using YouTube’s moderating tools and must demonstrate a low risk of predatory behavior.

YouTube has been “removing hundreds of millions of comments for violating our policies.” They have launched a more effective classifier that will identify and remove predatory comments. The classifier does not affect the monetization of a video. The new classifier can detect and remove 2X more individual comments.

The Guardian has information of what happened that led to YouTube’s decision. It is a disturbing situation, and it might be better for some people to avoid reading those details.

The situation prompted an advertiser boycott of YouTube. The Verge reported that major corporations like Disney, Nestlé and Epic Games (maker of Fortnite) had paused their ad spending after discovering their ads were playing on videos that had predatory comments on them.

It is possible that the advertiser boycott was what influenced YouTube to take additional steps to protect minors. Even so, it is good that those protections are now being put in place. In addition to removing comments, YouTube has terminated channels that attempt to endanger children in any way.


Google Provided Details About How it Fights Disinformation



Google presented a white paper titled “How Google Fights Disinformation” at the Munich Security Conference. The white paper provides details about Google’s work to tackle the spread of misinformation – across Google Search, Google News, YouTube and their advertising systems.

One thing Google is doing is giving users more context. Here is how they do that:

  • “Knowledge: or “Information” Panels in Google Search and YouTube, providing high-level facts about a person or issue.
  • Making it easier to discover the work of fact-checkers on Google Search or Google News, by using labels or snippets making it clear to users that a specific piece of content is a fact-checking article
  • A “Full Coverage” function in Google News enabling users to access a non-personalized, in-depth view of a news cycle at the tap of a finger
  • “Breaking News” and “Top News” shelves, and “Developing News” information panels on YouTube, making sure that users are exposed to news content from authoritative sources when looking for information about ongoing news events
  • Information panels providing “Topical Context” and “Publisher Content” on YouTube, providing users with contextual information from trusted sources to help them be more informed consumers of content on the platform. These panels provide authoritative information on well-established historical and scientific topics that have often been subject to misinformation online and on the sources of news content, respectively.
  • “Why this ad?” labels enabling users to understand why they’re presented with a specific ad and how to change their preferences so as to alter personalization of the ads they are shown, or to opt out of personalized ads altogether
  • In-ad disclosures and transparency reports on election advertising, which are rolling out during elections in the US, Europe and India as a starting point

Google is also empowering users to let them know when they are getting it wrong by using feedback buttons across Search, YouTube, and Google’s advertising products to flag content that might be violating Google’s policies.

In addition, Google is partnering with outside experts. Some of those experts include:

  • First Draft Coalition (which Google helped launch) – a non-profit that convenes news organizations and technology companies to tackle the challenges around combating disinformation online – especially in the run-up to elections
  • Trust Project (which Google is a founding member of) – explores how journalism can signal its trustworthiness online. The Trust Project developed eight indicators of trust that publishers can use to better convey why their content should be seen as credible, with promising results for the publishers who have trialed them.
  • Poynter’s International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) – a non-partisan organization gathering fact-checking organizations from the United States, Germany, Brazil, Argentina, South Africa, India, and more.

In regard to political ads, the white paper says: “Finally, in order to help understand the context for the election-related ads they see online, we require additional verification for advertisers who wish to purchase political ads in the United States, provide transparency about the advertiser to the user, and have established an online transparency report and creative repository on US federal elections.”

There are a lot more details in the white paper than I have posted here. Overall, it appears to be a good start at fighting disinformation across Google’s products. Part of the white paper mentions “deep fakes”, which will likely be difficult to combat. Google is clearly aware of how malicious actors could use it, and seems to be at least attempting to get ahead of that.