Over the past few years, we’ve been investing in the policies, resources and products needed to live up to our responsibility and protect the YouTube community from harmful content. This work has focused on four pillars: removing violative content, raising up authoritative content, reducing the spread of borderline content and rewarding trusted creators. Thanks to these investments, videos that violate our policies are removed faster than ever and users are seeing less borderline content and harmful misinformation. As we do this, we’re partnering closely with lawmakers and civil society around the globe to limit the spread of violent extremist content online.
We review our policies on an ongoing basis to make sure we are drawing the line in the right place: In 2018 alone, we made more than 30 policy updates. One of the most complex and constantly evolving areas we deal with is hate speech. We’ve been taking a close look at our approach towards hateful content in consultation with dozens of experts in subjects like violent extremism, supremacism, civil rights, and free speech. Based on those learnings, we are making several updates:
YouTube has always had rules of the road, including a longstanding policy against hate speech. In 2017, we introduced a tougher stance towards videos with supremacist content, including limiting recommendations and features like comments and the ability to share the video. This step dramatically reduced views to these videos (on average 80%). 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. 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.
We recognize 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. 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. We will begin enforcing this updated policy today; however, it will take time for our systems to fully ramp up and we’ll be gradually expanding coverage over the next several months.
In addition to removing videos that violate our policies, we also want to reduce the spread of content that comes right up to the line. In January, we piloted an update of our systems in the U.S. to limit recommendations of borderline content and harmful misinformation, such as videos promoting a phony miracle cure for a serious illness, or claiming the earth is flat. We’re looking to bring this updated system to more countries by the end of 2019. Thanks to this change, the number of views this type of content gets from recommendations has dropped by over 50% in the U.S. 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. As we do this, we’ll also start raising up more authoritative content in recommendations, building on the changes we made to news last year. For example, if a user is watching a video that comes close to violating our policies, our systems may include more videos from authoritative sources (like top news channels) in the “watch next” panel.
Finally, it’s critical that our monetization systems reward trusted creators who add value to YouTube. We have longstanding advertiser-friendly guidelines that prohibit ads from running on videos that include hateful content and we enforce these rigorously. And in order to protect our ecosystem of creators, advertisers and viewers, we tightened our advertising criteria in 2017. In the case of hate speech, we are strengthening enforcement of our existing YouTube Partner Program policies. 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 Super Chat.
The openness of YouTube’s platform has helped creativity and access to information thrive. It’s our responsibility to protect that, and prevent our platform from being used to incite hatred, harassment, discrimination and violence. We are committed to taking the steps needed to live up to this responsibility today, tomorrow and in the years to come.
— The YouTube Team
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