The Agent on YouTube’s Restricted Mode and The Value Of Uncensored Debate

“This video is restricted because some people can’t handle a mature critical discussion on some topics. Sorry about that.”
Source: The Independent

What is this; the third – maybe fourth time I’ve had to weigh in on a YouTube policy change? You guys could circumvent a lot of this bulls*** if you just gave us some details before you made the change.

Anyway, for those of you not keeping up with the new media, YouTube recently went live with a new ‘Restricted Mode’ feature that had some, shall we call it, unforeseen effects.

The goal of Restricted Mode is to give viewers the option to hide content that some may deem as questionable such as violence, profanity or sexual situations. And believe it or not, I totally understand why they would want to do this.

Let’s not forget, YouTube is a business first and foremost. Their first priority is to placate their advertisers, shareholders, and viewers. So, anything that might be counter-intuitive to an advertiser/viewer’s interests – say having their ad for a new children’s movie just before a video of a particularly foul-mouthed Let’s Player who uses f-bombs like vocal punctuation or having their five-year-old stumble upon the same – might scare them away.

But, the problem arises from what kind of content gets blocked when Restricted Mode is active; namely people weighing in on LGBT politics. Most of them are not even talking about gay sex, mind you; They’re just chiming in on the politics of queer culture.

I think the problem is pretty obvious and it’s a problem that asexuals like myself encounter routinely – people conflating relationships with sex. YouTube saw the phrase ‘LGBT’ show up and just ASSUMED it was about sex without actually checking the content. I assure you, talking about romance or being in love doesn’t AUTOMATICLY imply someone is bumping uglies and we need to stop think like it does.

Of course, this wave of (very likely) accidental anti-LGBT censorship is endemic of a bigger problem that I have with YouTube’s Restricted Mode and censorship in general. Simply put, I’m against censorship because is restricts discourse from both sides of a debate and thereby halts social progress. It’s a pretty simple chain of logic to follow; if neither side is allowed to talk about something, how can they debate it in order to solve any problems with it?

It’s for this reason that I support YouTubers like Count Jackula who dedicate regular live-streams to debates with fans and fellow creators or Armored Skeptic who often makes debunking videos pointing out logical fallacies in other people’s arguments. Yes, things often get very heated, people will get offended, and I frequently disagree with them on at least one point. But at the end of the day, they offer a perspective that made me think and that surge of critical thought is what we need more than anything else in this societal landscape.

That having been said, I can still see where YouTube is coming from in terms of business. It needs some kind of system to please the people that make them money. So, what we need is a common ground… and I think I have it.

Firstly, STOP CONFLATING RELATIONSHIPS WITH SEX. I will scream this 24/7 until I go mute from the scar tissue building up on my larynx.

Secondly, I suggest giving more control to what shows up in viewer searches by employing a sort of ‘ADVANCED Restricted Mode’ that allows the user to select what kind of content gets filtered out based on what they personally don’t want to see. It’s not ideal and those people will still be very likely to miss out on mind-expanding discussions, but it’s probably the best we can do until we can build that utopian society where people’s anuses don’t slam shut like steel security vault doors everytime they hear something that threatens their fragile reality.

YouTube Decency Standards or Controlling Creators?

Why do you hate the people making you money, YouTube?

Okay, that’s an admittedly abrupt way to start an article. But after the long string of problems we’ve seen coming out of YouTube – including their archaic automatic copyright strike system that’s still a problem today – we seeing garbage like this.

The short version of the story goes as follows; YouTube has made a new set of guidelines allowing them to pull monetization rights from videos that they feel may too violent, sexual, or controversial for advertisers. For those like me who are strictly anti-censorship, this would be bad enough. But, they had to make it even worse by defining the guidelines in such vague terms that they could pull ad revenue from videos at random and arbitrarily.

In fact, I don’t really need to say anything as one of my favorite Youtubers, James “Caddicarus” Caddick, said everything that needed to be said in the above video demonstrating the hypocrisy of the new guidelines (bonus points for giving Nicki Minaj’s garbage music a proper thrashing as well).

Look, I know this is going to be the shortest article I’ve ever written, but I just don’t have the strength to keep up with this sort of thing and there’s nothing I can say that hasn’t already been said before. So, I’m just going to say this and be done with it – YouTube corporate, you need to understand that this is not a hobby on the web anymore; it’s a job and people are going to treat it as a job. All of the attempts to control content will only serve to place enmity between you and your creators.

If you’re that worried about how your advertisers feel about placing their product next to Nicki’s jiggling ass, maybe you should try letting THEM decide where their ads go instead of making a blanket statement that you can (and likely will, if corporate greed acts its part) use as a blank check to destroy a channel that rubs you the wrong way.

And if that’s just too much work for you, then stop whining and learn to live the fact that the world will always have a bunch of dreary crap in it and you will never stop people from talking about it.

Bottom Line: If Steven Universe can get away with having Garnet and Amethyst’s sexy fusion dance on cable T.V. (huh, more Nicki Minaj. Weird), we should too.

#WTFU Can Go Further: How To Make YouTube Better

Pay attention to this, kids. It’s important.

I’ve been wanting to talk about this ever since I first learned about it last week. And yesterday, I had a good reason to do so.

For those not in the know, a recent trend among Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube users has had people voicing their outrage over unwarranted copyright strikes by spreading the news about victimized channels who have lost their monetization rights or have lost their channel entirely with the hashtag #WTFU.

No, that’s not the college dedicated to teaching people how to call out stupidity that I’m trying to establish. WTFU is short for “Where’s the Fair Use;” fair use being a caveat of copyright law that allows the use of short clips of copyrighted material for the purposes of criticism, education, news, and parody/satire.

However, many people have had their content removed, many times with no warning, despite being well within the protective rights of fair use. The proliferation of #WTFU was started by Doug Walker; aka, The Nostalgia Critic after he and his friends/co-workers at Channel Awesome had a strike file against them that cost them monetization rights and the ability to upload videos over 10 minutes long.

Walker’s incident is not isolated. Many other channels have suffered similar fates including I Hate Everything, H3H3, and – just yesterday at the time of posting this – Team Four Star among others.

Now, I like the idea of a United YouTube Entertainers Guild (I’ll work on the name) dedicated to protecting innocent producers. However, I feel that #WTFU supporters should take it upon themselves to go further. While protecting the innocent, we should be actively punishing the guilty.

What do I mean? Well, YouTube has a laundry list of standards of practice that they demand that anyone uploading footage. If we really want to make this a better place for entertainers we should be proving that by calling out the people you violate those standards while ALSO protecting those that play by the rules.

For instance, why is it that YouTube says is against sexually explicit content, but allows channels like Prank Invasion to objectify women by groping their asses so hard you could almost see up her pooper if they weren’t in bikinis?

Why do they attack people protected under fair use when sub-par ‘reaction’ channels Like Jinx are allow to upload full videos unedited with almost no actual substantial commentary?

Why do they tell us to not use hateful speech or threats, but extremist lunatics like Josh Feuerstein can insult and belittle Non-Christians and gays while waving his gun on camera and preaching about a “Christian Holocaust?” (Please note that I’m not linking to any examples of the above-mentioned people’s work because the worst thing I could do to dignify them is to increase their view count)

If we really want to improve modern media, then #WTFU can only be the start. We need to let YouTube know that we want good people to be left alone while pointing them in the direction of the real threats to good taste and basic human decency.

To that end, I encourage you to start a similar trend I call, “How Are You On YouTube?” Every time you see someone violating the YouTube standards without any consequence, flag the video and share a link to the offending channel via Facebook or Twitter with the hashtag #HAYOYT to encourage others to do the same.