YouTube Deleted 8 Million Videos in Q4, Mostly Porn and Spam, With 5 Million Blocked by Computers

YouTube, stung by a string of scandals involving ads discovered running in offensive content, released new figures aimed at showing that its efforts to strip out content that runs afoul of its policies are working.

The Google-owned video giant released its first YouTube Community Guidelines Enforcement Report on Monday (at this link), detailing the results of its content-removal program for the fourth quarter of 2017.

According to YouTube, it pulled down 8.3 million videos over the three-month period. Most of those were spam or “people attempting to upload adult content.” Notably, YouTube said, 6.7 million were first flagged for review by computers — rather than human editors. Moreover, of stuff that was auto-detected by YouTube’s machine-learning systems, around 5 million (76%) were deleted before they received a single view.

That said, 8 million videos is really just a drop in YouTube’s vast ocean of video. Google doesn’t release how many videos are on the service but says that content removed in Q4 2017 represented just “a fraction of a percent of YouTube’s overall views,” and that the ratio has been steadily decreasing over the last five quarters.

Meanwhile, even as YouTube’s beefed-up content flagging program identifies and blocks millions of out-of-bounds videos, it still faces an ongoing brand-safety issue: Advertising is still showing up in material that marketers do not want to be associated with. Commercials for more than 300 companies and government organizations were running on YouTube videos “promoting white nationalists, Nazis, pedophilia, conspiracy theories and North Korean propaganda,” according to a CNN report last week.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai cited YouTube’s progress in combating content violators on Alphabet’s first-quarter 2018 earnings call Monday.

“Even as we invest in new experiences, we stay very focused on making sure that YouTube remains a safe platform with great content,” Pichai said. “We are aggressively combating content that violates our strict policies through a combination of user and machine flags.”

Pichai also touted YouTube’s continued momentum: In the last year, channels that earn $100,000 or more per year grew more than 40%. He also noted Dua Lipa’s video “New Rules” became the 100th video on YouTube to reach 1 billion views and highlighted YouTube’s Coachella live-stream it was viewed more than 41 million views. “No surprise, Beyoncé was the most-viewed Coachella performance ever on YouTube,” he said.

YouTube plans to release a regular quarterly report on how it’s enforcing Community Guidelines. The video platform says it has already improved its auto-detection of content violations over the past year. For example, at the beginning of 2017, 8% of the videos removed for “violent extremism” were taken down with fewer than 10 views; after YouTube rolled out machine-learning flagging in June 2017, in Q4 more than half of the videos removed for violent extremism have fewer than 10 views.

Computer-based detection is no silver bullet, though, and YouTube said that deploying machine learning “actually means more people reviewing content, not fewer.” Across all of Google, the company plans to boost the size of its content-review team to 10,000 by the end of 2018. (By comparison, Facebook has said it’s aiming to double the size of its security and safety group by year-end, to 20,000 workers.)

In addition, YouTube noted that it is collaboration with more than 150 partners in academia, government agencies, and non-governmental orgs to refine its content-enforcement systems. Those includes the International Center for the Study of Radicalization at King’s College London, Anti-Defamation League, Family Online Safety Institute, and partners around the world focused on child safety like Childline South Africa, ECPAT Indonesia, and South Korea’s Parents’ Union on Net.

YouTube also said it is rolling out a Reporting History dashboard for users to see the status of videos they have flagged for review.

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