YouTube Uncovered: YouTube has become a caustic development environment

In the 11 years since its creation, Youtube has developed significantly as a platform. It has added new features, created new communities and essentially changed the way the world shares videos. Unfortunately, some of Youtube’s content-creators have been lagging in maturing with the growing website. But, with active involvement of their fan-bases, creators can certainly follow suit with the platform.

With propositions like “we don’t support content that promotes or condones violence against individuals or groups based on race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, nationality, veteran status, or sexual orientation/gender identity,” built into its community guidelines, one may think that Youtube is a stimulating exchange of ideas.

However, popular Youtubers have a tendency to smudge the rather ambiguous lines surrounding the community policy; most of them get away with it, too. For example, Shane Dawson, who has over six million subscribers on Youtube released a video entitled “13 & Pregnant,” in which Dawson refers to an African American cast member as a “n*gg*r b*tch money woman.” He also published videos in which he appeared painted in black face, a historically defamatory tool against black people and made tasteless jokes about incidents involving racially charged police brutality (i.e., shooting of Trayvon Martin).

In late September, Sam Pepper, a British YouTuber famous for his “pranks” released a video in which he hid a fake hand under his jacket and asked unsuspecting women on the street for directions. When they weren’t looking, he reached from under his jacket and pinched their behinds.

Because of what appears to be lax regulation on Youtube’s part, famous YouTubers get to keep hateful videos online. According to Youtube’s statistics page, over 100 hours of video content is uploaded to Youtube every minute; Youtube’s surveillance team simply can’t keep vigil on every pixel that crosses into cyberspace.

In most cases, content that clearly violates Youtube’s terms of service is not taken down unless an uproar calls for action. In the case of Dawson, the video wasn’t even taken down by Youtube—Dawson took down the videos only after social activist YouTuber Chescaleigh brought attention to their racist undertones. Pepper’s prank video was taken down only after a series of YouTubers signed an open letter condemning him for acts of blatant sexual assault.

Even in cases when someone tries to bring attention to potentially harmful material, die-hard fans of YouTubers flock to protect the content-creators. In the case of Chescaleigh reporting Dawson’s “13 & Pregnant,” Dawson’s fans assimilated and deplored Chescaleigh for using reverse racism to get a video she didn’t like removed, generally bombarding her Youtube videos with hateful and slur-filled comments.

The videos themselves are offensive enough; their impact is even more daunting. Before removal, Dawson’s video had garnered over nine million views. Pepper’s display of sexual assault racked up one million views in under a day.

According to Youtube’s information page, “Youtube provides a forum for people to connect, inform, and inspire others across the globe and acts as a distribution platform for original content creators and advertisers large and small.” Youtube is built on the exchange of ideas and tasteful humor, not potentially violence-inciting, intentionally hate-filled and downright disgusting exhibitions crafted to get a shock response. Youtube is meant to inform, not to sensationalize. It’s not okay use hate speech in real life, so it shouldn’t be allowed just because the internet provides a more anonymous form of communication.

Consumers should be active in reporting harmful content. Rather than protecting content-creators simply because of some intangible allegiance, viewers should push creators to make media that can be enjoyed by all viewers. Pepper and Dawson are examples of the good that may come from viewers being active in their viewership, but significantly more disturbing content still floats around on the video sharing platform. The only way for Youtube and its members to grow is to cleanse the platform of its caustic parts.