8 min read

This year’s Recode annual Code Conference commenced on Monday, 10th June at Arizona. YouTube CEO, Susan Wojcicki was interviewed yesterday by Peter Kafka, Recode’s senior correspondent and there were some interesting conversations between the two.

The event is held for two days covering interviews from the biggest names in the tech business. The talks will include the sessions from the below representatives:

  • YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki
  • Facebook executives Adam Mosseri and Andrew Bosworth
  • Amazon Web Services CEO Andy Jassy
  • Fair Fight founder Stacey Abrams
  • Netflix vice president of original content Cindy Holland
  • Russian Doll star Natasha Lyonne
  • Medium CEO Ev Williams
  • Harley Davidson President and CEO, Matthew Levatich
  • The Uninhabitable Earth author David Wallace Wells

This year as Code brings the most powerful people in tech, it also defines the manifesto for the event – as Reckoning. Reckoning means “the avenging or punishing of past mistakes or misdeeds.” As it believes that this year there is no word better which captures the state of mind of those in Big tech today. With some of the incalculable mistakes which these companies have gotten themselves into to build up the internet. This is the focus of this years Code Con 2019.

In one of the biggest takeaways from Susan Wojcicki’s interview, she said she is okay with taking content down, but she doesn’t think it’s a good idea to review it before it goes up on the massive video-sharing platform.

“I think we would lose a lot of voices,” Wojcicki said. “I don’t think that’s the right answer.”

Peter asked her about the updated hate speech policy which YouTube announced last week. Susan in response said it was a very important decision for YouTube and they had been working for it since months. The company updated its hate speech policy according to which it will take down “videos alleging that a group is superior in order to justify discrimination, segregation or exclusion based on qualities like age, gender, race, caste, religion, sexual orientation or veteran status.”

The policy directly mentioned removing videos that promote neo-Nazi content or videos that deny commonly accepted violent events, like the Holocaust or the Sandy Hook school shooting.

The conversation also went in the direction of last week’s incidence, when YouTube decided that Steven Crowder wasn’t violating its rules when he kept posting videos with homophobic slurs directed at Vox journalist Carlos Maza, and the company eventually demonetized Crowder’s channel.

Kafka pointed out that the company is making such decisions, but only after content is online on YouTube’s platform. In response, Wojcicki emphasized the importance of reviewing content after it publishes on the site. “We see all these benefits of openness, but we also see that that needs to be married with responsibility,” she said. She also added that the decision that Crowder’s videos did not violate the policy was hurtful to the LGBTQ community. That was not our intention and we are really sorry about it. However, she did not commit any further action in this case.

Wojcicki admitted that there will likely always be content on YouTube that violates its policies.

“At the scale that we’re at, there are always gonna be people who want to write stories,” she said, suggesting that journalists will always choose to focus on the negative aspects of YouTube in their reporting.

“We have lots of content that’s uploaded and lots of users and lots of really good content. When we look at it, what all the news and the concerns and stories have been about is this fractional 1 percent,” Wojcicki said. “If you talk about what the other 99 points whatever that number is that’s all really valuable content.”

“Yes, while there may be something that slips through or some issue, we’re really working hard to address this,” she said.

Wojcicki suggested that instead of approving videos ahead of time, using tiers in which creators get certain privileges over time. This means more distribution and monetization of their content.

“I think this idea of like not everything is automatically given to you on day one, that it’s more of a — we have trusted tiers,” she said.

Wojcicki then discussed about YouTube limiting recommendations, comments, and sharing, and it has reduced views of white supremacist videos by 80 percent since 2017. She mentioned that it has only now banned that content altogether. And YouTube is one of several prominent tech companies trying to figure out how to deal with hateful content proliferating on their platforms.

Later Wojcicki shifted the focus of conversation on the improvements YouTube has made in the past few years.

“Two years ago there were a lot of articles, a lot of concerns about how we handle violent extremism. If you talk to people who are experts in this field, you can see that we’ve made tremendous progress.”

“We have a lot of tools, we work hard to understand what is happening on it and really work hard to enforce the work that we’re doing. I think if you look across the work you can see we’ve made tremendous progress in a number of these areas,” Wojcicki said. “If you were to fast-forward a couple years and say, well, what that would look like in 12 months and then in another 12 months, what are all the different tools that have been built, I think you’ll see there will be a lot of progress.”

There were questions from the audience as well and one of them asked Wojcicki, “You started off with an apology to LGBT community but then you also said that you were involved in it and you think YouTube made the right call as to why people don’t feel like that’s an apology and concerned that YouTube flags LGBT and positive content just for being LGBT and sometimes being sensitive and yet slurs are allowed so I am curious to know if you really sorry for anything that happened to the LGBTQ community? Or are you just sorry they were offended?”

Susan said she is personally really sorry for what happened and speaking up for the company they had not intended to do that and the company is also sorry for the hurt that had caused.

Susan then continued to give a vague response and did not really answer the question of why LGBT positive content get flagged as sensitive but slurs against the LGBT community is allowed on Youtube. She reiterated the policy and tried to play around by saying we have people who belong to that community and we support them, and that it was a “hard” decision.

“So I am really personally really sorry and that was not our intent. YouTube has always been the home of so many LGBTQ creators and that was why it was so emotional and that’s why I think this really even though it was a hard decision it was made harder  for us and YouTube has so many people from the LGBTQ and we have always wanted to support the community openly in spite of this hard issue that we have had right now and people had this criticism on why you still and why you changed your logo to rainbows even though you made this hard decision and because as a company we really wanna support the community its just that from a policy standpoint we need to be consistent because if we took down that content there would be so much other content that we would need to take down and we don’t want just to be knee jerk and we need to think about it in a very thoughtful way.

We will speak to people from LGBTQ community and make sure that we are incorporating that going forward in terms of how think about harassment and make sure that we are implementing that in a fair and consistent way going forward. And I think it was a hard week and I am truly sorry for the hurt that we have caused to the community. It was not our intention at all and I do want to say that many changes we made to the hate policy are really going to be beneficial to the community. There are a lot of videos there and there are a lot of ways the community is attacked and we will be taking down those videos going forward and we will be very consistent and if we see such videos we will take them down”

The community is also unhappy with her response and says this is not the answer to the question and she has tried to deny the responsibility.

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Being a Senior Content Marketing Editor at Packt Publishing, I handle vast array of content in the tech space ranging from Data science, Web development, Programming, Cloud & Networking, IoT, Security and Game development. With prior experience and understanding of Marketing I aspire to grow leaps and bounds in the Content & Digital Marketing field. On the personal front I am an ambivert and love to read inspiring articles and books on life and in general.