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The real reason for YouTube’s recent content crackdown?

Posted on Dec 22, 2008 by billsimmon in Digital Culture, Free Speech | 1 Comments

Ars Technica has a post up today regarding a recent report out from the Parent’s Television Council (the group largely responsible for getting the nation in a lather over Janet Jackson’s boob in 2004) entitled, The “New” Tube: A Content Analysis of YouTube—the Most Popular Online Video Destination. The report finds, not surprisingly, that there is a lot of stuff on YouTube that the PTC thinks is “offensive.”

Here’s a snip from the AT piece…

The Council’s conclusions come from an analysis of 280 YouTube offerings. When PTC inspectors searched for the term “porn,” for example, over a quarter of the videos returned didn’t ask for age verification, they claim. Many included ads or links to pornographic Web sites. “Clicking a link would instantly take the user to a webpage containing extremely graphic photos and videos of homosexual and heterosexual oral and anal sex,” PTC complains.

While the survey praises YouTube for prohibiting outright pornographic videos and “algorithmically demoting” sexually suggestive fare, the decency group criticizes the company for taking no steps to reign in user comments, which its authors find at least as disturbing as the videos themselves. From July 1, 2008 through August 5, 2008, the PTC’s “analysts,” as they call themselves, collected not only videos, but user remarks.

The article also wisely quotes from SCOTUS justice William Brennan’s dissent in the landmark Pacifica Foundation v. FCC (the George Carlin “seven dirty words” case)…

“There are many who think, act, and talk differently from the Members of this Court, and who do not share their fragile sensibilities,” he wrote. “It is only an acute ethnocentric myopia that enables the Court to approve the censorship of communications solely because of the words they contain.”

Pacifica vs. FCC, Justice Brennan predicted, will have its biggest impact on broadcasters seeking to reach people “who do not share the Court’s view as to which words or expressions are acceptable and who, for a variety of reasons, including a conscious desire to flout majoritarian conventions, express themselves using words that may be regarded as offensive by those from different socio-economic backgrounds.”


“In this context,” he added, “the Court’s decision may be seen for what, in the broader perspective, it really is: another of the dominant culture’s inevitable efforts to force those groups who do not share its mores to conform to its way of thinking, acting, and speaking.”

I don’t know if Google is actually reacting to the PTC’s complaints with their recent crackdown or not, but I suspect their decisions will wind up biting them in the ass. It’s not like there aren’t alternative video sharing services out there for people to jump to when YouTube becomes passe. Merely serving a majority of a certain type of web user is no guarantee of permanence. Remember what happened to MySpace.

Thanks AlexW for the link!



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  1. The law doesn’t require a log-in for ‘objectionable’ content, either. And since they see no reason to police their users, I see no reason to log in to see videos, either.

    This week, though, I had a link to a video pulled for violating their rules…

    …It was a safety video demonstrating what happens when an older and newer type of electric car (or laptop) battery pack was pierced.

    I have no idea how that was violating their rules, but now I can’t show people that the 123 battery pack doesn’t explode when pierced. Odd, huh?

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