Top Takeaways From Bloomberg's Investigation of YouTube
(Bloomberg) -- Bloomberg investigated how YouTube let objectionable videos flourish on the service. Here are some of the key takeaways.
1 - Susan Wojcicki and other YouTube executives were either unable or unwilling to act on internal warnings about extreme and misleading videos because they were too focused on increasing viewing time and other measures of engagement. Wojcicki would “never put her fingers on the scale,” according to one person who worked for her.
2 - When Wojcicki took over YouTube in 2014, she embraced a target of one billion hours of daily watch time. The service hit that goal in October 2016.
3 - A privacy engineer at Google suggested to YouTube’s policy chief that videos deemed “close to the line” of the takedown policy should be removed from recommendations. The proposal was turned down and YouTube doubled down on an AI-powered strategy to use recommendations to keep people watching.
4 - After Donald Trump won the U.S. presidential election in 2016, Wojcicki convened a meeting in which one employee fretted about YouTube’s most popular election-related videos being dominated by extreme publishers like Breitbart News and Infowars. The episode sparked widespread conversation but no immediate policy changes by YouTube.
5 - In the fall of 2017, Wojcicki pitched a radical overhaul of YouTube to Google CEO Sundar Pichai. The changes could have inadvertently rewarded video creators that thrived on outrage, such as Alex Jones. Pichai rejected the plan.
6 - YouTube recently replaced engagement with "responsible growth" as its core metric. But the company has yet to explain publicly what that metric entails and how it will affect its business.
7 - YouTube dissuaded staff from being proactive. Lawyers advised employees not assigned to handle moderation to avoid searching on their own for questionable videos.
8 - In early 2018, an employee created a new YouTube category the “alt-right.” Based on internal engagement data, this ranked as one of the most popular categories, along with music, sports and gaming.
9 - Exclusive data from Moonshot CVE, a London research firm, shows that less than 20 YouTube channels pushing anti-vaccination theories built an audience of more than 170 million people over a decade. YouTube recommended those viewers more conspiracies in the last year.
©2019 Bloomberg L.P.