Back in February, you may remember, I cobbled together a little mini-movie called "First, They Came" inspired by the Mohammed Cartoon riots. It's a simple slideshow highlighting the victims of Islamic violence over the years. We posted it at YouTube a while ago. No problems. Until last week, when I received this e-mail: ...
Suffice it to say that YouTube pulled the video for inappropriate content. (And no, I don't normally read Michelle and I don't know what the original video was like. That isn't really the point, as you will see.)
Now I found YouTube's action very peculiar, because a YouTube employee made it quite clear some time ago that there was no way they could police the content on their site and that they don't even try.
However, an employee of YouTube called Think & Ask following publication of "Fetish Videos Land on Family Entertainment Website YouTube" and for that individual's own protection we agreed not to publish the informant's name or gender. The company has relatively few, but tightly knit employees.
"It [pornography] was bound to happen, but we don't have the [manual] resources to control what people post here," the informant said.
"For our future business model the issue is very sticky. I'm sure upper management won't comment for that reason," the informant said.
It would appear that they have plenty of time for political censorship, but can't be bothered with sifting out porn.
"Rev." Billy Gisher of Those Bastards (The Meanest Weblog on the Web) declared war on YouTube on August 15. He was upset by the fact that about 80% of the videos on YouTube are pornographic, that they are readily viewable by any child surfing the Internet, and that YouTube refuses to do anything about it.
So Gisher started informing the advertisers (including WalMart, the Girl Guides of America, and just about any large corporation you can think of) that their ads were appearing with pornographic content. He had screen captures in hand to prove his point. A good number of advertisers started pulling ads. You can read the whole saga over on their website, although I think it only fair to warn you that it's not family viewing. He includes largish thumbnails of screen captures.
Gisher proposed a simple method to YouTube to restrict access by children, but needless to say, they haven't implemented it. He's now started to put "real reverends" on the case, concluding he just doesn't have enough clout on his own. He cites a New York Times interview with one of the founders of YouTube, Chad Hurley:
Yesterday evening, I took notice of this interview published on September 30, 2006 in the New York Times. Chad Hurley, one of the founders of YouTube, spoke with their reporters and editors to answer some questions, which were excerpted to compile this story, from which I have extracted the following question and response:(The NYT didn't pursue this line of questioning, perhaps because they themselves advertise on YouTube. No possibility of disinterested journalism here.)
Times staff: "But you said a vast majority of your stuff was user-generated and kind of wacky unpredictable stuff. Why would an advertiser want to be next to something where it might be something disgusting?"
Chad Hurley: "Well, I think it's the nature of the Internet. There's not really any safe places on the Internet. And they just want to get in front of audiences.....And I think they're just looking for new opportunities to get in front of an audience, and that's what we're providing for them."
I think that Chad Hurley's comments come as close as you possibly can to stating that he believes most major advertisers care more about getting their message in front of an audience than they do about offending their audience.
Gisher has been on this story for about two months now, contacting advertisers on a daily basis, reporting their reactions and refusing to give up on the issue. He wants this material to be made inaccessible to children and is doing everything he can to see it happen. Despite his online moniker, there is nothing reverend about him, nor about the group blog he is part of, so opponents are going to have a difficult time characterizing this as coming from some uptight religious prude.
Technorati tags: Billy Gisher, YouTube porn, YouTube, Michelle Malkin