YouTube: Still Figuring Out Politics

YouTube is becoming a powerhouse in politics. Where else can people and political organizations post political ads for free, and where if the ads are good enough, people will come looking for them? The ads can go “viral” — viewers will e-mail links to them and embed them in their blogs. For example, consider the political ad created by director David Zucker.

YouTube still has some rough edges to remove when it comes to politics. Take a look at YouTube’s video categories. There is no “Politics” category. “News and Blogs” is as close as it gets. Let’s not perpetuate the confusion between news and commentary.

YouTube also needs to refine its content policing. On the widely successful, online advertising site Craigslist, anyone can “flag” any ad believed (or not) to violate Craigslist policy. If enough people flag the same ad, it disappears–automatically and with no additional input from the Craigslist operators. It’s not a perfect system, but it seems to work.

YouTube appears to have a similar procedure. According to the YouTube help center:

How does YouTube handle inappropriate content?
Our community understands the terms of use and effectively polices the site for inappropriate content (similar to other open internet communities such as eBay and craigslist). Their vigilance combined with our proprietary technology helps us to enforce our community standards. (emphasis added)

Does this mean an organized group of people could get videos flagged or even banned by clicking “flag as inappropriate”? Or could then even get videos removed? YouTube is not very clear on what causes a video to be flagged as “inappropriate” and what causes a video to be removed. Their Terms of Use don’t help much.

In connection with User Submissions, you further agree that you will not: (i) submit material that is copyrighted, protected by trade secret or otherwise subject to third party proprietary rights, including privacy and publicity rights, unless you are the owner of such rights or have permission from their rightful owner to post the material and to grant YouTube all of the license rights granted herein; (ii) publish falsehoods or misrepresentations that could damage YouTube or any third party; (iii) submit material that is unlawful, obscene, defamatory, libelous, threatening, pornographic, harassing, hateful, racially or ethnically offensive, or encourages conduct that would be considered a criminal offense, give rise to civil liability, violate any law, or is otherwise inappropriate; (iv) post advertisements or solicitations of business: (v) impersonate another person. (emphasis added)

“Otherwise inappropriate”? A little more guidance, please…

This is not merely an academic question. Michelle Malkin’s video “First They Came” was banned on/by YouTube. Michelle has responded to the banning with another video — on YouTube, naturally.

Ironically, truly offensive material remains on YouTube. Sniper “snuff film” videos from Iraq are still available. Does this mean that YouTube operators give favoritism to one political view? Or are people just not clicking these videos as offensive? Or are they being banned and then re-posted?

How will Google’s buying of YouTube affect these issues?