The other day I watched Alfie Deyes interviewing YouTube’s CEO, Susan Wojcicki. During the interview, Alfie asks Susan if YouTube is instantly demonetising LGBT content, which she disagreed with. She claimed this isn’t possible, as YouTube are LGBT friendly and their demonetising is done by a machine learning programme, which would not single out LGBT content.
Her response, whether she realises it or not, is a lie.
Either Susan doesn’t understand how her demonetisation software works, or she’s claiming to be dumb in order to ignore the issue Alfie has unintentionally exposed.
As Susan says, the demonetisation is done via machine learning. This means the software picks up trends in data, and then uses these trends to improve its efficiency in finding issues within videos (which then results in the video becoming demonetised).
So why would this result in LGBT content being penalised?
Of course, YouTube has always had a porn problem. One way or another people are always trying to smuggle porn onto the site, and it’s down to this software to help find these videos and ensure that advertising is not appearing on them.
One of the biggest genres within porn is lesbian.
This means, that when the software is scanning these inappropriate videos and flagging them for demonetisation, quite a few are likely to involve lesbian scenes.
Over time, the software picks up a pattern. When the term “lesbian” is used in the tags, header or description; it is more likely to be adult content or porn. As a result, the software would then learn to instantly demonetise any video which uses the term “lesbian” (as a safeguard against advertising on porn).
The same can be said about most LGBT terms, including “gay” or “trans”.
It is then down to the content creators to dispute the demonetisation (caused by machine learning, not caused by their content), and hope that YouTube fixes the issue before the video’s views plateau and its earning potential shrinks.
Surely the CEO of YouTube understands this? Surely this would be a good opportunity for her to admit the faults of using automatic demonetisation software?
But no, Susan allegedly has no clue, and the interview moves on. At the very least, hopefully Susan can walk away from the interview and address this issue internally.