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YouTube CEO at World Economic Forum: "We will always work" to censor "misinformation"

At the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting for 2022, an event where powerful CEOs and world leaders meet to "find solutions to the world's most urgent challenges," YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki committed to persistent censorship of "misinformation" and praised YouTube's existing censorship efforts.

Wojcicki made the comments after Alyson Shontell Lombardi, the Editor-in-Chief of Fortune Magazine, asked her whether YouTube's efforts to censor misinformation will always be a "work in progress."

"I think there'll always be work that we have to do because there will always be incentives for people to be creating misinformation," Wojcicki said. "The challenge will be to keep staying ahead of that and make sure that we are understanding what they are and the different ways that people may use to try to trick our systems and make sure that our systems are staying ahead of what's necessary to make sure that we are managing that."

Wojcicki continued by praising YouTube's 5-6 year initiative of cracking down on content that's deemed to be misinformation and said that users who look at YouTube search results or the homepage will see content from "authoritative sources" (mainstream media outlets that YouTube designates as authoritative) for "sensitive topics."

Earlier in the conversation, Wojcicki said YouTube is "investing a huge amount to make sure that we're fighting misinformation" and discussed the various ways YouTube is cracking down on misinformation. She pointed to YouTube introducing 10 COVID censorship policies, YouTube's policy of not recommending "borderline content" which doesn't break YouTube's rules but is deemed to be "lower quality," and YouTube's policy of demonetizing content that's deemed to be "propagating something that is generally understood as not accurate information."

Wojcicki also talked about YouTube's violative view rate (VVR) – a metric that shows how many views come from content that violates YouTube's rules. The metric indicates how swiftly YouTube is censoring content. A low VVR signals that most of the content YouTube removes is being taken down before viewers have a chance to watch it.

Wojcicki noted that just 10-12 views of every 10,000 come from violative content and that this number has "come down significantly" over time.

"Our plan is to continue to work on it and make sure that we continue to reduce that," Wojcicki added.

Wojcicki's commitment to always crackdown on misinformation echoes her and the platform's previous vows to censor misinformation. Days ago, Wojcicki promised to tackle “misinformation” to win over corporate cash. And earlier this year, she said: "Tackling misinformation and other harmful content is a top priority."

YouTube has already deleted more than a million videos for "COVID misinformation,"plans to preemptively censor "new misinformation," and has considered hiding the share button to prevent misinformation spread.


Australia's eSafety Commissioner tells Davos it's time for a "recalibration" on human rights like "free speech"

Australia's eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant chose the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos as the venue to reveal that she believes freedom of speech, among other human rights, is in need of "recalibration." "We are finding ourselves in a place where we have increasing polarization everywhere, and everything feels binary when it doesn't need to be - so I think we're going to have to think about a recalibration of a whole range of human rights that are playing out online," Grant told a panel. Other participants in the discussion were an Estonian minister, Belgium's deputy prime minister, and an executive from the Access Now non-profit. Watch the video here. In the Australian official's opinion, these human rights go "from freedom of speech, to be free from online violence" and, "the right of data protection, to the right of child dignity." However, not everyone is clear on what Grant was talking about since she did not explain what qualifies as "online violence," or "child dignity." And it isn't clear what this "recalibration" would specifically entail. But her comments about the need to tamper with a right as fundamental as freedom of speech have caused strong criticism on social media by those who see no reason to reinvent this particular wheel, and struggle to understand what the concepts "of online violence" and similar even mean. And Grant is no stranger to Big Tech and social media - after spending nearly two decades working for Microsoft, and also Adobe, and Twitter, she became Australia's first eSafety Commissioner. She also works with the current US administration's Gender Policy Council and WEF's Global Coalition for Digital Safety. The eSafety commissioner position was created as part of Australia's "unique" Online Safety Act, controversial for its treatment of people's online privacy and free speech, while the WEF website reminds us that the office of eSafety Commissioner is the only - or "first," as the Davos gathering put it - government regulatory agency of its kind in the world. The agency's powers include protecting people from "online abuse." It appears that like its commissioner, the office is big on words but short on detail - reports say that the regulator's website doesn't bother to explain what exactly it considers to be "online abuse" although it does mention "cyberbullying." The office headed by Grant can also penalise internet service providers who fail to comply with its orders to remove content.


YouTube executive says it's an "open platform" where anyone can share ideas "without gatekeepers"

The huge number of YouTube users who have been finding themselves on the receiving end of YouTube's relentless push over the past years to control and censor the platform will no doubt be surprised - perhaps shocked - to hear that Google's video giant is "an open platform without gatekeepers."

"Staggering hypocrisy" is what might also spring to mind while listening to YouTube's Chief Product Officer Neal Mohan utter these words during the Zeitgeist 2022 event in London on May 20th.

Watch the video here.

Mohan did qualify his astounding claim that YouTube not only has no gatekeepers, or "anybody telling us whether our idea is good or bad," by saying this "open platform" is one that does have community guidelines.

It is precisely these guidelines that have been cited over and over again in the massive amount of YouTube strike or ban notices, as content creators are prevented precisely from having their own ideas, whether it was doctors and scientists trying to discuss Covid, or journalists and commentators covering elections or current affairs.

But now, Mohan claims that YouTube gives everybody a chance to share their ideas freely, while the "openness" of this concept is, allegedly, what's behind the power of YouTube.

He further stated that videos that represent voices he or anybody else might disagree with should not be removed for that reason, and then, perhaps aware of how ironic all this might sound, attempted to explain why "different voices" are being silenced - it's adherence to a "robust set of community guidelines."

Apparently referring to the fact that these guidelines have been getting ever more restrictive, Mohan added that they have been "evolving." As for where these rules come from and what their justification is, the YouTube exec mentioned "established third party experts" such as government authorities and advocacy groups.

With these, YouTube works to censor what it considers to be "hate speech" and harassment, as well as violent extremism.

Then there's another big subject of censorship on YouTube and elsewhere on Big Tech platforms, "misinformation."

Mohan said that it often isn't clear what authoritative sources to counter "misinformation" should be, and added that the situation becomes "fuzzier and harder" at that point.

Then came another fairly astonishing statement:

"In my opinion, I, my team in YouTube, shouldn't be the arbiters of the truth. And we really do try to avoid taking that position."

But it soon becomes clear that YouTube simply wants creators and users to blame somebody else for the heavy censorship.

"We really try to fall back to authoritative sources when we remove videos, in terms of our policies, we factor that into how our recommendation algorithms work, as opposed to us arbitrarily trying to make those decisions," said Mohan.


UK government wants to limit online protest organisation, and introduce ankle monitors for disruptive protesters

The Home Office has proposed a new Public Order Bill that includes “serious disruption prevention orders.” The bill would give the police the ability to electronically tag disruptive protesters and limit where they can go, who they can meet, and what they can do online and in real life, regardless of whether they have committed a crime.

We obtained a copy of the bill for you here.

The bill would also make locking-on (where protesters lock themselves onto parts of buildings) a criminal offense. Also, disrupting transport works and national infrastructure would be a criminal offense.

The UK's proposals came months after Canada used extreme emergency powers on Freedom Convoy protesters, including freezing bank accounts, earlier this year, and ahead of a cost of living crisis in the UK that many feel could spur protests.

The provision in the bill aims to restrict what a person can use the internet to do, including, "using the internet to facilitate or encourage persons to carry out activities related to a protest that result in, or are likely to result in, serious disruption to two or more individuals, or to an organization, in England and Wales."

The new bill was read for the second time in parliament after it was opposed by the House of Lords at the beginning of the year.

Arguing for the bill in the House of Commons this week, Home Secretary Priti Patel said it would help fight the “rise in criminal, disruptive and self-defeating tactics from a supremely selfish minority.”

She added that the bill targets demonstrators who are “determined to repeatedly inflict disruption on the public,” and cited organizations like Insulate Britain and Extinction Rebellion.

Arguing against the bill, shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper cited a reportby Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary about protest powers that was commissioned by Priti Patel.

In the report, the Home Office itself argued against new protest powers, saying they were “unlikely to work as hoped.”

“This proposal essentially takes away a person’s right to protest and we believe banning people from attending peaceful protests would very likely lead to a legal challenge,” the Home Office said in the report, published in March 2021.

“It appears unlikely that a court would issue a high penalty to someone who is peacefully protesting. Consequently, we believe it unlikely the measure would work as hoped.”

Cooper also noted that the report quoted some police officers opposing the new protest powers, saying that existing laws were adequate to handle protests but “the ability to implement them is the challenge due to lack of resources.

The report also said: “Arguing against the proposal for a new stop and search power, an officer stated that ‘a little inconvenience is more acceptable than a police state.’ We agree with this sentiment.”

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