Earlier this month, YouTube vlogger Logan Paul came under fire yet again for posting a video of himself tasering a dead rat to his 16 million subscribers on his channel, LoganPaulVlogs. A month prior, the video, “We found a dead body in the Japanese Suicide Forest,” topped YouTube’s trending page and featured Paul and his friends “stumbling” upon and laughing at a corpse hanging from a tree in Japan’s infamous “Suicide Forest.”
Public outcry for Paul’s ban forced the company to communicate. YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki revealed its three-strike policy during an interview with Code Media, which states creators have “three strikes” of violations before their account is terminated.
Paul, who Wojcicki claims “hasn’t done anything that would cause those three strikes,” is temporarily suspended from ad revenue on his content and has been dropped from a future film with YouTube Red as a result.
YouTube tweeted their apologies for their lack of communication after the release of Paul’s video, stating, “[the public] deserve to know what’s going on.”
Unfortunately, YouTube has long failed to communicate with the public, failing to explain why their algorithm sometimes supports harmful content while censoring LGBT-positive videos. The algorithm determines which videos trend and are recommended based on user preference.
YouTube has claimed in their own videos that the algorithm is based on popularity, novelty, view count and view progression. Paul is number four on Forbes’ Highest Paid YouTube Celebrities and was part of Google Preferred, which attracts premium advertisers and earns at a higher pay rate, according to AdWeek. Plus, with his 16 million subscribers on YouTube, Paul is likely an asset to the platform.
Sketchily, LGBT Activist Trevor Moran, who makes ad revenue and has 1.5 million subscribers, reported being demonetized and blacklisted for using the word “transgender” in a video title. In a vlog, Moran revealed that he “immediately” received a letter from YouTube that the video was demonetized after being posted. The video even landed on the trending page, but was pulled down shortly after. As a test, Moran changed the title to “My Gender,” and the video was instantly remonetized.
“I just find it strange that there’s a dead body at number one on trending,” he said. “[My video] was a serious heartfelt message and was taken away because it could have been offensive to younger viewers and non-brand friendly.”
YouTube sensation Jenna Marbles also confirmed on the “Jenna & Julien Podcast” that videos containing LGBT-related keywords on YouTube’s Restricted Mode are censored. Restricted Mode, which users can switch on and off, blocks potentially inappropriate content from being seen. According to Jenna, YouTubers sent her footage of their videos being blocked in “real time” when LGBT terminology was used. Most videos contained “PG” rated footage, she said.
To make matters worse, disturbing cartoon parodies infamously creeped into feeds of YouTube Kids, a “family-friendly” version of the platforms, in early 2017. Such videos included characters sexually assaulting each other, holding guns and even killing one another, BBC News reported.
After much pressure after the Paul controversies, Wojcicki did explain that the platform “will be adding more people and more machines” for content review, and plans for 10,000 human reviewers total. However, they are still not addressing how certain content takes precedent over others, why the algorithm has failed time and time again or why they wait until after the damage is done to fix it.
“YouTube is not transparent-nothing about what they’re doing or thinking or advertiser business that is happening,” said Julien Solomita, content creator for the “Jenna & Julien Podcast.”
“It’s all secretive and they tell us [an apology] that they’ve written out and are ready for people to know.”
YouTube’s lack of transparency is a scary reality to face in 2018, where everything in our phones is tailored, to some degree, by digital algorithms. With innovative technology comes the potential for monetary gain through abuse, and dishonesty only raises eyebrows towards Google’s incentives.
Should they truly fix this in the future, we could potentially avoid the next “Suicide Forest.”