In 2005, YouTube was born into existence and would forever change the digital world as we know it. Even though that was only 13 years ago, the internet was still in its infancy. As the first of its kind, YouTube has transformed from a time-killing rabbit hole, filled with cat videos and people “failing,” to a legitimate medium of creation and a source of entertainment poised to surpass traditional television.
The only website with more web traffic than YouTube is its parent, Google, who bought the site in 2006 for a price that now seems like highway robbery: $1.65 billion. It seemed absurd at the time, but when you consider YouTube is now speculated to be worth up to $40 billion, it could very possibly be considered as one of the most brilliant and strategic business moves ever.
YouTube changed the internet forever, and I’d argue no website has grown in parallel with the internet so organically. YouTube has maintained its core competency as a video sharing service but also slowly added pieces that have made it in the media behemoth it is today.
In the early years, YouTube’s community largely governed itself. Users reported bad/inappropriate content and promoted the good. Now YouTube has taken over the role as governing body in a move that has resulted in some serious turmoil on the site. When popular YouTubers aren’t calling each other out and having their fan bases clash, they are often complaining about something YouTube did to their account.
Be it unreasonable censorship or random demonetization, YouTube has been wildly slipshod and inconsistent at monitoring content. The company has been accused of having political motives behind its censorship power. Recently, popular talk show host Dave Rubin did an experiment with YouTube’s monetization system. A video he posted titled “Socialism Isn’t Cool” was quickly demonetized by YouTube, so to test the theory of YouTube being against conservatives, he posted a video titled “Capitalism Isn’t Cool” to illustrate the bias and inconsistency in treatment.
It’s not just politics. YouTube has been poor at censorship of inappropriate content. Just last month, massively popular creator Logan Paul got in hot water for posting a video that included the dead body of a suicide victim. YouTube was incredibly slow to remove the video, causing many to question the motives of the site. Are the most popular users immune from certain powers? Do they get special treatment?
Whenever conservatives are complaining about bias and censorship by YouTube, it is important to remember YouTube is a business with its own terms and conditions all users must agree to before using the site. YouTube reserves the right to control what is and isn’t shown on its site, but a problem arises when you consider the site’s sheer size and influence.
YouTube is really the only one of its kind. People can threaten to start their own video site, but it will never catch on. YouTube is benefitting from being the first to the scene and has a firm grasp on the entire market. Nobody is going to dethrone them or even come close to competing.
But, does YouTube, due to its size and influence that literally impact billions, have a greater social responsibility? One that transcends the typical responsibilities they have to their stockholders? I would say yes. YouTube needs to take up some corporate social responsibility and try to act in the interests of all shareholders, particularly consumers/users, instead of just owners.
Though it is its own company, YouTube, through promoting certain videos and channels and censoring or demonetizing others, is enacting a tyrannical level of over watch and control, leaving users in a bind. Creators can’t leave the site due to its massive reach, core base of viewers, and worldwide familiarity. But staying on the site is becoming more and more difficult due to the heightened regulation and shoddy oversight of Big Brother.
Apart from being consistent in its use of powers, YouTube, due to its size and influence, needs to start considering the community at large if it wants to improve its deteriorating image.
Andrew Hall is a UF management senior. His columns focus on entertainment and music.