YouTube is trying to clean up its act by cracking down on sexually explicit videos that are just short of porn and spam videos with misleading titles and descriptions. (Porn has always been grounds for removal). On its most visited pages, YouTube will now apply a “stricter standard for mature content” and demote sexually explicit or graphic videos from its “most viewed,” “top favorited,” and other popular pages. Also, thumbnails will now be algorithmically selected.
These new standards are not just about YouTube trying to class itself up. The more it polices itself, the less likely that Congress or the FCC will try to police it in the future. (For the FCC, its jurisdiction would probably be limited to mobile devices that access the Web over cellular networks).
But the bigger consideration may simply be to get rid of what amount to spam videos taking over YouTube. If you are looking for puppy videos, you are probably not looking for a video with a lady in lingerie and bunny ears that is actually an ad for a porn site. (Or maybe you are, but in that case you should be searching for “lady bunny”). This is a real example, but I’m not going to link to it.
YouTube isn’t the only social media site cracking down on the sexy stuff. Build-your-own social network Ning will no longer allow “adult social networks” starting in January, even if they are legal. The advertisers Ning (and YouTube) are trying to lure, just don’t like being associated with that type of content. Ning CEO Gina Bianchini explains in a blog post:
Adult social networks don’t pull their own weight. Specifically, they require other social networks to work harder because they don’t generate enough advertising or premium service revenue to cover their costs. Plus, our ad partners aren’t big fans of the adult networks and therefore require us to identify adult networks or risk our healthy advertising revenue. We don’t want to be in the policing business and, unchecked, that’s where this is heading.
She also notes that legal adult social networks create more work for Ning by receiving “a disproportionate number of DMCA take down notices” and they also attract more illegal adult social networks. I guess, it’s like the broken car windows theory—small infractions lay the groundwork for bigger problems. Perhaps YouTube is thinking along the same lines.