Virus Action Reveals Big Tech’s Double Standards

Youtube CEO Susan Wojcicki published a statement yesterday on how the video platform responds to the corona virus outbreak. It is worth reading.

Wojcicki says “It remains our top priority to provide information to users in a responsible way.” Sounds great. Could that not be the policy always? So maybe we would not have to live with alt.right-propaganda, election interference, ISIS execution videos and such things that would never be published in proper media. That would make the internet better, regardless of virus outbreaks, right?

“YouTube will continue to quickly remove videos that violate our policies when they are flagged” – Another great idea. Hope it’s not like pirate videos where rights holders must go through a slow bureaucratic process just to have the videos uploaded again right after. Except the really responsible thing would be to not have those videos posted in the first place. That would really help stop virus misinformation! (and the creative economy)

Perhaps that can’t be done because of the way Youtube works? But wait, Wojcicki has the answer:

“In the days ahead, we will enable ads for content discussing the coronavirus on a limited number of channels, including creators who accurately self-certify and a range of news partners”

Great idea, perhaps similar things can be applied to the other problems Youtube brings upon the world?

Thanks to Susan Wojcicki for speaking out. There are two problems here. The first is that this is not enough if Youtube wants to live up to its parent company’s motto Do the right thing. This fits more into the familiar pattern of “do as little as possible” which is justified with anything else would “break the internet” (or Google’s profit forecast). The second is that at previous occasions, the standard response from Google, Youtube and most of Big Tech has been something along the lines of “it’s the algorithm we don’t know what it does” or “that would be like in China”. Wojcicki’s statement shows that they can if they want to. Great, now do that more often. And better.

(A similar issue related to a smear campaign against Michelle Obama. Watch this great TED Talk!)