YouTube has clearly evolved since it was first introduced to the world in 2005, though many believe that it was not for the better. Initially created by a group of friends hoping to help people share videos, it was later sold to Google, and has since become increasingly focused on profit.
Creators on YouTube are able to earn money from their videos, enabling some to make it into a full-time career. However, such funds are generated via advertisements, or else through included product placements, yet the former cut into the video and frustrate viewers, whilst the latter often compromises the integrity of the video and can turn off viewers from watching.
The website also brings to light issues on copyright and behaviour on the Internet. The nature of YouTube as a sharing platform means the inevitable use of pre-existing materials, such as music, videos, etc. Misuse of such materials can be controlled through copyright claims on the video, which can lead to the demonetization of that video and the potential removal of it and of the entire channel from the platform. Any other breach of the community guidelines – such as displaying graphic content, or misleading thumbnails to increase viewership – can be reported by anyone and will result in the same punishment.
“…companies with a copyright claim can claim the revenue for the entire video, regardless of how much material was copied”
Yet, while some may consider this as a positive attempt to protect creators’ content and prevent inappropriate subjects being displayed on the platform, there have been numerous complaints about the system by which YouTube assesses and judges these videos. After all, anyone is allowed to report these videos, granting power to people such as the dreaded Internet ‘trolls’, who unnecessarily report content with the intention of causing distress.
Not only this, but companies with a copyright claim can claim the revenue for the entire video, regardless of how much material was copied and in what manner. Even simple those who may have hummed part of a popular song in a video can get a copyright strike by the music label that produced it, redirecting the revenue for the whole video. Currently, people can appeal to YouTube by asking for a retraction, but this gives the company more work than it would have if they found a more efficient system.
Problems with excessive striking of videos have led many YouTube creators to simply leave out materials, such as music, in a reluctant act of self-censorship.
“Naturally, most brands don’t like having their adverts associated with certain subjects or behaviour”
The issue of acceptability of content is closely tied with how reliant the platform is on funding from advertisers. Naturally, most brands don’t like having their adverts associated with certain subjects or behaviour, which has prompted some to leave the website. This inevitably leads to a redefining of the code of acceptable behaviour, prioritising the needs of the advertisers over the creators.
There has also been criticism of the YouTube algorithm. It is designed to tailor to each individual watcher by recommending them videos similar to what they have previously watched. In theory, this is beneficial to the watchers and creators by providing content that is tailored to specific audiences that enjoy it.
“This is how we end up being recommended slime videos for all eternity.”
However, this also restricts the viewership for different channels and makes it harder for smaller channels to gain a viewership. It also hinders the individual viewers from finding other materials that they might otherwise have been interested in. We can also see that certain content is favoured by the algorithm, such as, channels that post everyday, or refer to others, as this keeps the viewers on the website for longer. This is how we end up being recommended slime videos for all eternity.
Criticisms about these kinds of issues bring up broader questions about social media platforms, such as authorship and whether or not we should have the freedom to incorporate other people’s work into our own on sharing platforms. With numerous complaints over censorship and following codes of conduct, one wonders how much autonomy a person should have on any given platform and whether or not their freedom of speech is valued above censorship.
“…despite its flaws, YouTube is still essentially a creative platform.”
Ultimately, despite its flaws, YouTube is still essentially a creative platform. It is available to anyone as a source of entertainment, information, and creativity. Via its comments feature, it offers a means of direct interaction between creators and their audience. It is a great place to gather awareness for different topics, products, and people, and, finally, it enables another source of communication accessible to people around the world.