Removing YouTube’s ‘disturbing content’

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If you have been on the internet recently, you may have heard news surrounding YouTube personality Logan Paul and the video he uploaded on New Year’s Eve depicting a hung corpse in Japan’s Aokigahara Forest.

Within 24 hours after uploading, the video amassed over 6.3 million views before being removed due to an enormous amount of backlash from the YouTube community. After a couple of days, Paul issued two apologies through Twitter and YouTube, and he didn’t post any more content until two weeks later.

However, Paul is not the only one at fault for allowing this video to reach such a widespread audience; that culpability also goes to YouTube. While the video was still up, YouTube allowed it to reach No. 10 on the top trending list, where it stayed until it was taken down—not by YouTube, but by Paul. This is because YouTube grants priority to content creators like Paul who earn the bulk of the site’s advertising revenue and are willing to work closely with them.

It took 10 days after the initial upload for YouTube to respond to the issue, first tweeting out: “Like many others, we were upset by the video that was shared last week. […] The channel violated our community guidelines, we acted accordingly and we are looking at further consequences.” If “acted accordingly” means that YouTube violated their own policy regarding inappropriate content and continued to allow reuploaded videos to reach the trending page, then yes. They did.

And since Paul is YouTube’s “golden boy,” the site went even further by taking down videos of YouTubers criticizing Paul’s actions. In one instance, Ian Kung’s parody of Paul’s video that included a fake dead body was, ironically, removed for “disturbing content.”

YouTube’s delayed and underwhelming response has reminded viewers of similar occurrences in the past. In March 2017, it was discovered that YouTube’s “Restricted Mode” filtered videos about LGBT topics, even if they contained no sexual references or otherwise inappropriate content for children under the age of 18.

Even though YouTube eventually took Paul off of the site’s top advertising package, Google Preferred, and put on hold several of his upcoming YouTube Red Original films, the damage has already been done. Several community members have called for the termination of Paul’s channel, but it is unlikely that that is going to happen any time soon. YouTube’s primary focus right now should be to learn from this controversy and improve the way that it is going to address violent and inappropriate content in the future.