WTF, YouTube? Documentaries about rape victims are not Unsafe Content

*** trigger warning: suggestions of rape and child pornography exploitation ***

click here to see Screencap ⇐ that juxtaposition is Inappropriate Content, right there. I don’t believe that YouTube can’t do something about it, either.

Attn YouTube, this blog post contains the extended details of the complaint email that I justwould have sent to you if there was an appropriate email address made available for me to do so. I don’t expect to be confronted with suggested videos with rape fetish titles in the sidebar when I go to look at a trailer for a documentary about rape victims. How the hell can your system not have been tweaked to prevent shit like this happening? And why is your system for reporting Inappropriate Content on related videos so needlessly confronting?

I can only assume that your algorithm tags all videos with the word “rape” in the title, description or tags as “Unsafe Content”. Superficially, this may seem like a reasonable policy, however it suffers from a false positive difficulty similar to that of the well known Scunthorpe problem.

There are several intersecting problems here:

  1. Your system doesn’t seem to have a way for videos seeking to raise awareness for rape victims to avoid being flagged as Unsafe Content. A trailer for a documentary about the systematic rapes in the Congo has been flagged as “Unsafe Content” – is this just because it has “rape” in the title?
  2. Your system doesn’t let people coming from a Google search know right at the top of the page that they are viewing your site with the Safe Browsing option off – that information sits right down the bottom of the page in fine print. So they can be looking at a page that should never have been flagged as Unsafe Content and then be confronted by Inappropriate related content in the sidebar Suggestions.
    • Example: this means that when one goes to the page for a video trailer for “The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo” (the abovementioned documentary about the systematic rapes of women in the Congo) that one sees the top suggested video that shows in the sidebar has the title “dog r*pes girl” (without the asterisk) and one can see that 16 million+ people have viewed it without it being removed from YouTube.

      As it happens, that dog video is not quite as bad as it sounds (which I know because the only way to flag a video as Inappropriate Content is to go to its video page) – there is no actual sexual contact, the “girl” appears to be fully adult, she is wrapped inside a duvet and the dry-humping dog is outside the duvet. But would that video have had over 16 million “views” if it didn’t have a title that suggests Sexual Abuse of a Minor, even if perhaps half of those views are people like me who only went to the page to flag it as Inappropriate?

  3. Now, on to actually reporting the objectionable video in question to you. Of course I understand that the accepted (and simple) procedure on YouTube is to flag “Inappropriate Content” by going to the page of the video in question and clicking on the “flag” button just to the right of the “embed” button underneath the video itself. I have done that. But
    • I didn’t want to go to that video page
    • I didn’t want to have that link in my browser history
    • When I did go to a video page to flag that content as Inappropriate, your algorithm threw up Related Video suggestions on my homepage! I didn’t want to see the first video suggestion, I certainly don’t want to see more that are just like it!

    So, your reporting system actually discourages people from flagging Inappropriate Content, and knowing that it doesn’t have to work that way, I wonder whether you are perhaps viewing the discouragement for those reporting content as Unsafe as a feature rather than as a bug. Shame on you if this is so.

Now, I realise that some of the problems with this particular video may have come about because the user is unsophisticated with social media – they haven’t identified their channel as a “Director” channel, they haven’t used Boolean description tags etc etc. I hope that if they had done so, that this particular problem with the Unsafe Content rating might be averted. I’d like to think that there was something you could do to improve the current rating for the video and the jarring juxtaposition in the Suggested videos column.

Also, please make your “Inappropriate Content” reporting system less confronting. Since your system incorrectly flags important and serious content as Unsafe, it’s not good enough to tell users to simply switch to Safe Browsing, is it?

Hugely, hugely unimpressed, YouTube.

Very Unhappy Regards,

* don’t get me started on society’s casual “metaphorical” usage of the word “rape” for everyday non-violent situations.

Categories: gender & feminism, technology, violence

Tags: , ,

4 replies

  1. You know, I wish I was surprised, but I’m just not. Youtube really is a horrible place sometimes. 😦

  2. The titles should count as offensive too. Don’t need to have those ideas planting images in my head thanks, even if the title is misleading.

    • I ended up going over to their blog and finding a thread to drop a link to this post in. The thread was about Human Rights Violations, so I pointed out the problems with rating a documentary about the HRV of rape as “Unsafe Content”.
      Their reporting/contact system is, quite deliberately I’m sure, labyrinthine.

  3. We just received a private communication:

    Have passed the article on internally, and will try to chase it up and
    get action taken. Thanks for bringing it to my attention…

    Let’s see how this goes.

%d bloggers like this: