If you make videos and upload them to YouTube, you’ll need to be wary of their new policies concerning harassment and cyberbullying. You could find your account being reported and your content removed if YouTube determines that your content contains harassment or cyberbullying material.
Kotaku in Action user CrazyTheFox15 was quick to spot out the change in YouTube’s policy change, since those who frequent KIA are usually very keen on keeping a close eye on censorship and authoritarian content control.
Over on the YouTube policy page the only new thing that they’ve added within the last six months is a line under the “Harassment may include” section that reads:
Incitement to harass other users or creators.
Now this obviously refers to videos where someone specifically tells others to go harass someone or go harass certain content creators. But is that all?
The language they use here instantly brings to mind critical videos of Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. For instance, are videos critical of Trump or Clinton that result in people getting riled up at their respective supporters a situation where the videos could be labeled as “incitement to harass”? What about videos that get people motivated to actively protest or disrupt speeches, like what happened with activist and journalist Milo Yiannopoulos – who is also on YouTube – where HeatST reported that the speech at the University of Central Florida had to be canceled due to security concerns? How about videos critical of religious practices that can be tied to tragedies, similar to what happened with the shooting at the gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida? Do videos promoting that kind of behavior fall into the “incitement to harass” category?
Deciphering the language is such a tricky thing. In fact, over on the sub-Reddit Let’s Play – a sub dedicated to YouTube’s video game Let’s Play culture – has already garnered less than enthused responses from its members.
“[…] the problem I see is that a lot of this is very vague and doesn’t strongly outline what is harassment or what action Youtube is even going to take against it. Reading carefully before the bullet point list you see they say, “Harassment MAY include:” It’s ultimately up to Youtube to decide what they consider harassment and sadly it may not always be consistently enforced. Sadly I don’t see much changing with this.”
Sarah_Lou_Who was a bit on the fence, liking some of the rules but feeling uncomfortable with others, writing…
“I feel like some of these are really good, like the bit on inciting harassment since there are some big names out there who have been known to sick their audience on other weaker individuals for one reason or another and this will probably help bring an end to that crap. However, a few of those could potentially stifle certain videos due to the vagueness of some of the rules.”
In some regards, these rules could specifically target trolls as well. There’s practically an entire sub-culture centered around videos of people trolling, humiliating and angering other people. But do we chalk up this kind of content as parody and fun? Or is it mean-spirited harassment?
A perfect example is something like Minnesota Burns, who was known for getting a rise out of people with content like the following.
There are also channels like BCC Trolling that gets millions of views posting up videos from users that troll people to the point of uncontrollable raging.
Previously, YouTube had updated their rules months ago to include the following statement about the kind of content that could be considered “Harassment”: Deliberately posting content in order to humiliate someone.
Do they mean humiliate anyone or just YouTube users?
Essentially, if they start enforcing these rules there will be countless YouTubers will millions of subscribers that would no longer have a place on Google’s video service.
They don’t exactly explain why they updated the Harassment and Cyberbullying policies. It’s not clear if some recent event occurred or a bunch of users and creators made complaints, but adding in the blurb under some of the other rules about inciting harassment on other users or creators will have interesting results on who gets hit hard by YouTube’s moderation team.