During his House Judiciary Committee testimony on Tuesday, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said YouTube needs to handle violence-inducing conspiracy videos better.
At the testimony, Pichai was asked about how YouTube deals with extremist content that could lead to violence. Namely, the Committee cited the Frazzledrip conspiracy, which claims Hillary Clinton and her aide Huma Abedin sexually assaulted a girl and then drank her blood. The Committee went on to explain that YouTube’s recommendation engine has suggested videos that claim politicians, celebrities and other influential people were “sexually abusing and consuming the remains of children, often in satanic rituals.”
While Pichai wasn’t aware the Frazzledrip conspiracy, The Washington Post reported some of the videos were removed and have, not surprisingly been proven false. However, the topics in the videos are still being discussed to this very day. And before YouTube caught the videos, they’d already been viewed millions of times.
What can YouTube do about extremist propaganda?
“What is your company policy on that? And are you trying to deal with it?,” Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) questioned Pichai, referring to extremist propaganda videos.
Pichai answered that YouTube is “constantly undertaking efforts to deal with misinformation” and that they’re “looking to do more.”
“We have clearly stated policies and we have made lots of progress in many of the areas over the past year — so, for example, in areas like terrorism, child safety, and so on,” said Pichai. “We are looking to do more.”
Currently, videos like Frazzeldrip don’t exactly violate YouTube’s policies. YouTube’s doubled down on videos that show graphic violence and hate speech. But at the same time it looks too keep freedom of speech on the platform. And speech, even if misinformed and could lead to violence, doesn’t necessarily violate policy.
Free speech vs policies
YouTube’s faced with the dilemma of balancing its creators’ freedom and its responsibility to enforce effective content policies. YouTube is a very powerful tool and can be used by very dangerous individuals. For instance, Nazi propaganda posted on YouTube inspired the Tree of Life shooter to kill 11 people at the Pittsburgh synagogue.
When asked about this, Pichai admitted that this is a problem YouTube struggles with.
“We do get around 400 hours of video every minute. But it’s our responsibility, I think, to make sure YouTube is a platform for freedom of expression, but it’s responsible and contributes positively to society,” Pichai said. He later noted YouTube’s policies allow the platform to take down videos that “incite harm or hatred or violence.”
“It’s an area we acknowledge there’s more work to be done, and we’ll definitely continue doing that,” Pichai said. “But I want to acknowledge there is more work to be done. With our growth comes more responsibility. And we are committed to doing better as we invest more in this area.”