A report released yesterday by datanalysis group Karlaplan seems to show concrete evidence of censorship on YouTube for the first time. The report concluded that videos at risk encompass a range of content — including the LGBT community, mental health advocacy, and political content.
Google makes their internal processes difficult to track by design, but the author states that these changes are fairly recent, “suspected to have been implemented on the 30th of August” — the changes having only been discovered in late October.
However, until the publication of this document, little other than anecdotal evidence was presented with complaints from YouTube content creators.
Through extensive analysis of the YouTube Data API and other sources, Karlaplan found that YouTube tags demonetized videos according to both severity and type of sensitive content — neither of which is transparent to the uploader.
They go on to label each of the types of filtered content, and after analysis of over a million YouTube videos, found that demonetized content is routinely stripped from video suggestions and subscription feeds, and at best only get indexed around 37 percent of the time at high levels of viewership:
“The fact that more demonetised videos are related at lower viewership is contrary to the logical assumption that more videos at the lower viewership would be demonetised since less of them have the option to appeal their videos … YouTube seemingly has a system in place that systematically censor videos with the excluded_ads labels.”
The analysis controlled for several other variables and biases, ultimately concluding that random error could not have caused this level of variance in a dataset as large as theirs:
“With the biases addressed, it still provides a trend that simply would not exist to this extent if YouTube is not actively censoring videos by suppressing their promotion.”
Thus far, YouTube has been playing their internal content policies close to the chest. They are infamously reticent when it comes to allegations of censorship and content neutral promotion. However, this analysis may ultimately force some transparency.
Private company rights aside, do you think Google is being fair to censor content without letting its users know? Let’s hear your thoughts.
Images via Karlaplan