Google CEO Sundar Pichai defended YouTube’s censorship practices in a recent interview following the latest round of content creator demonetization and bannings caused by leftist outlet Vox.
In an interview with Axios on HBO, Google CEO Sundar Pichai defended YouTube’s censorship following the sites most recent scandal in which a number of creators had their content demonetized following complaints from Vox journalist Carlos Maza. Pichai spoke with transgender Axios reporter Ina Fried, who advocates for further censorship on the platform in the interview. Pichai discusses YouTube’s moderation tactics and plans to introduce more “authoritative sources” and “fact checks” on videos across the platform.
Axios began the interview by asking about questionable content that YouTube has failed to remove, citing a video of a teenager in “Muslim garb” spreading anti-Muslim, ant-Semitic, and homophobic rhetoric. The interviewer asked Pichai what goes through his mind when he sees a video like that on YouTube garner 350,000 views.
Pichai replied that YouTube plans to crack down on “borderline” content that does not violate the rules of the site but that they find objectionable:
You know, I don’t know all the details of this specific video, but in general, look, I mean all of us, you know, none of us want harmful content on our platforms. I think last quarter alone we removed 9 million videos from the platform. More recently, we have introduced, you know just like today we do this in search. We, you know, we rank content based on quality. And so we are bringing that same notion and approach to YouTube, so that we can rank higher quality stuff better and really prevent borderline content.
Content which doesn’t exactly violate policies, which need to be removed, but which can still cause harm. And so we are working hard. It’s a hard computer science problem. It’s also a hard societal problem because we need better frameworks around what is hate speech, what’s not, and how do we as a company make those decisions at scale, and get it right without making mistakes.
The interviewer replied that although YouTube talks a lot about progress, it seems as if very often there is a new issue with the site and new content that people are upset about being featured on the platform. The interviewer asked Pichai how he would grade where YouTube is at right now, to which Pichai replied:
Look we aren’t quite where we want to be. But I think it’s a genuinely hard problem of how do you, YouTube has the scale of the entire Internet. And I think we’re making a lot of progress, but the thing we are trying to do is to bring more authoritative sources and fact checks on videos, which may be controversial. It’s a case where we got it wrong, but that’s what we are trying to do and we are working hard to improve.
Watch the full interview with Axios on HBO here.