April 11, 2016

YouTube Continues Failing to Enforce its Community Guidelines

YouTube, for the second consecutive year, has been included on the National Center on Sexual Exploitation’s annual Dirty Dozen List. The popular video-sharing site returns to the annual list for the original reason: failing to eliminate sexually explicit and pornographic content—both softcore and hardcore—in videos posted on its site.

While YouTube’s Community Guidelines clearly delineate that it prohibits nudity, pornography, and other sexually explicit content, the site makes little effort to monitor and remove videos that violate its guidelines. YouTube turns a blind eye to explicit content. Worse still, YouTube facilitates viewing of such material among those not even searching for it. Inappropriate content can appear as “recommended” viewing or “up next” videos on the right side of a user’s screen even if a user is viewing a totally unrelated video. For children in particular, this presents a great risk. The launch of the YouTube Kids app in 2015 was a step in the right direction, but still does not address the prevalence of pornographic videos on the main site.

YouTube’s current procedures for reporting sexually inappropriate material are difficult and do not suffice. Users can “flag” videos as containing graphic sexual activity, nudity, content suggestive without nudity, or other sexual content. YouTube’s staff then reviews it for the flag indicated and removes it should it violate community guidelines. Unfortunately, this policy turns YouTube’s users into the enforcement agents of its own policy and requires viewing of the pornographic content in order to accurately identify and flag it. In the meanwhile, such videos acquire thousands of views and some simply slip through the cracks and are never dealt with. Ultimately, there is grossly inadequate filtering on YouTube’s posted content.

With the October 2015 relaunch of YouTube Red, subscribers pay $10 per month for advertisement-free viewing. While the fee purportedly helps YouTube recoup lost revenue from ad blocking, it also places a price on potentially viewing sexual content—a development that represents more grave consequences of YouTube’s negligent policy implementation.

For these reasons, YouTube is once again on NCOSE’s Dirty Dozen List. You can help take action against YouTube’s lax enforcement of its user policies on sexually exploitative material by signing our petition here.

Marie Coussa

Marie Coussa is a Communications Intern at the National Center on Sexual Exploitation.  Currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology at the Catholic University of America, she hopes to transition into communications and marketing for non-profit organizations upon graduation in 2016.  Marie is passionate about humanitarian efforts and is especially excited to contribute to NCOSE’s work to end an important public health crisis.  When not working on NCOSE’s campaigns, you can find Marie cooking up a storm or trying to pet every dog she sees on the street.

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