YouTube says it is cracking down on hate speech on its platform, banning videos that promote neo-Nazi ideology or claim that events like the Holocaust never took place.
The move is expected to result in thousands of videos and channels being removed from the popular online platform.
But while the company will begin enforcing its new policy today, it admits that it could take months before all of the content is removed.
“The openness of YouTube’s platform has helped creativity and access to information thrive,” the company said in a statement posted Wednesday. “It’s our responsibility to protect that, and prevent our platform from being used to incite hatred, harassment, discrimination and violence.”
YouTube’s announcement comes as online platforms are under intensifying political pressure over the kind of material they’ve allowed to be posted online in the wake of the Christchurch mosque shooting in New Zealand in March, which killed 51 people and injured dozens more.
The gunman successfully livestreamed the attack for several minutes online. Tech companies have struggled since then to remove copies of the video posted to their platforms — often with small changes made to thwart their AI-driven monitoring systems.
YouTube and other online giants also have been accused of employing algorithms that promote the viewing of extreme content because it generates more traffic.
The House of Commons justice committee has been holding hearings on the spread of online hate and extremism.
In its post, YouTube says it moved in 2017 to limit discriminatory content, “including limiting recommendations and features like comments and the ability to see the video. This step dramatically reduced views to these videos (on average 80%).”
Now, it’s going further.
“Today, we’re taking another step in our hate speech policy by specifically prohibiting videos alleging that a group is superior in order to justify discrimination, segregation or exclusion based on qualities like age, gender, race, caste, religion, sexual orientation or veteran status,” it wrote.
“This would include, for example, videos that promote or glorify Nazi ideology, which is inherently discriminatory.
“Finally, we will remove content denying that well-documented violent events, like the Holocaust or the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, took place.”
However, the company isn’t planning to completely eliminate the videos forever.
“We recognize that some of this content has value to researchers and NGOs looking to understand hate in order to combat it and we are exploring options to make it available to them in the future,” said the company’s statement. “And, as always, context matters, so some videos could remain up because they discuss topics like pending legislation, aim to condemn or expose hate, or provide analysis of current events.”
YouTube also is moving to prevent those who repeatedly come close to the line on hate speech from being able to make money through ads on their videos.
“Channels that repeatedly brush up against our hate speech policies will be suspended from the YouTube Partner program, meaning they can’t run ads on their channel or use other monetization features like SuperChat,” it wrote.
The company also will limit the distribution of “harmful misinformation,” expanding an initiative piloted in the U.S. in January which reduces the spread of such videos by more than 50 per cent to more countries by the end of 2019. The company says the pilot project limits the spread of things like “videos promoting a phony miracle cure for a serious illness or claiming the earth is flat.
“Our systems are also getting smarter about what types of videos should get this treatment and we’ll be able to apply it to even more borderline videos moving forward.”
At the same time, the company said, it will promote authoritative content by suggesting it in the ‘watch next’ panel.
Elizabeth Thompson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org