YouTube's Hateful Content Crackdown Sees 500 Million Comments Deleted, 17,000 Channels Canceled

In June, video behemoth YouTube changed its guidelines to have stricter rules on content and comments. Since the changes, there has been a massive purge of prohibited content across the website, reports The Verge. In total, around 500 million comments have been deleted, along with around 17,000 YouTube channels and 100,000 videos.

"We've been removing harmful content since YouTube was started, but our investment in this work has accelerated in recent years," YouTube said on its official blog.

YouTube claimed that even before the June changes were published or enforced, it had been doing better to stop extremist content in the months before using the "Intelligence Desk" that was established in January.

"80 percent of those auto-flagged videos were removed before they received a single view in the second quarter of 2019," the blog read.

Part of this success has been the addition of 10,000 people to monitor hate content. YouTube had previously relied mainly on computers and algorithms.

The removal of bad content is a daunting task, as more than 500 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every 60 seconds. This is spread over a base of over 23 million channels and 2 billion users. It is because of the enormous size of the website that certain hate content has been able to slip through the cracks.

In 2016 and 2017, YouTube was routinely criticized for having terrorist videos on its website. Though it has made progress in finding and banning such videos, it did not completely solve the problem. In 2018, the Counter Extremism Project found that ISIS members and supporters uploaded 1,348 YouTube videos garnering 163,391 views between March and June alone (via Scientific American).

Another scandal that more recently rocked YouTube was after popular vlogger Logan Paul released a video that showed a man who had committed suicide.

youtube on computer screen
Unsplash | Christian Wiediger

In addition to deleting content, YouTube also claimed that it was working to suppress videos that it believes contain potential prohibited content.

"Over the last 18 months we've reduced views on videos that are later removed for violating our policies by 80 percent, and we're continuously working to reduce this number further," the blog added.

The last point is one of the four guiding principles laid out by YouTube in its new mission statement. The first is removing content that goes against its rules, second is emphasizing trusted news sources in an era of fake content, third is rewarding good content, and fourth is the aforementioned stifling of questionable content.

However, this last point has also garnered criticism for YouTube. Many journalists, particularly conservative ones, have claimed that YouTube buries or demonetizes their videos, per Fox News. YouTube has stated, however, that all "creators are held to the same standard."