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PoGo YouTubers Banned For…Huh?

Compared to Twitch and its reputation for (inconsistently) enforcing its stricter rules, YouTube is the Wild West of gaming content.

But there are limits, as Pokémon Go players Mystic7, TrainerTips, and Marksman discovered last weekend. All three of them had their YouTube accounts shut down, for reasons that seemed bizarre initially.

It appears that what actually happened was that YouTube’s algorithm was monitoring video titles for contentious terms that could signal content which would break the Terms of Service. One of these terms was the relatively innocuous acronym ‘CP’, which in Pokémon Go stands for ‘Combat Power’. Unfortunately, it is also used in some parts of the Internet to stand for ‘child pornography’. The theory about this connection is also borne out by other gaming YouTubers also suffering similar issues. Billiam, who posted a Club Penguin video using the same acronym, had it flagged for sexual content and his channel shut down, as well as his Google account.

 

Nick Oyzon, aka TrainerTips, did some detective work and found that other communities on YouTube had been struggling with this issue previously, but that the algorithm had not been modified to recognize the distinction between, say, footage of WWE wrestler CM Punk, and footage of child abuse (or, as it appears is more common, instructions on how to access footage of child abuse).

 

 

Obviously, the problem of inappropriate and especially illegal content is a grave one. Oyzon does take the issue very seriously in the video he posted to his personal channel. He regards the issue of child abuse and pedophile rings manipulating the YouTube algorithm for their own sick benefit as far more serious than the problem of his account being wrongly suspended. However, at the same time, he rightly points out that it is incredibly likely that at no point in the flagging process was his account looked at by a pair of human eyes. A quick lookover of a minute could have easily established that nothing sketchy was going on on the TrainerTips channel.

These YouTubers and others like them rely on YouTube for the means of making their livings. Although this time their accounts were quickly restored when the mistake was brought to YouTube’s attention, users may not always be able to rely on this. The damage to people’s reputations caused by the bans if publicised could harm people’s careers, their relationships with sponsors, even their monetization on their restored accounts. YouTube has a duty to protect its users, especially its younger ones, from this kind of content. But it also has a responsibility to its creators. Overzealous and unsupervised disciplinary procedures are clearly hurting the community, and it’s unclear as to who exactly it is helping.

 

What do you think: are these precautionary measures by the algorithm worth the occasional misstep in order to protect kids? Or should YouTube be using a different strategy to protect its users?

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