Jonathan Weinberg writes… Regulation? On the web? You must be thinking I’ve swallowed some happy pills to make a statement like that. After all, the whole premise of the Internet has always been find anything you want, anywhere – hasn’t it?
But while it’s near on impossible to bring in blanket rules and laws to cover the whole of cyberspace, I do think it is time some sites were forced to put their hands up and take much more responsibility for their actions – and that starts with YouTube.
A poll out today found YouTube is the most popular user-generated site in the UK after attracting 10.4 million people in January. That is a 56 per cent increase in traffic compared to 2007 and just shows the reach it has.
The success of the video-sharing site has been phenomenal. Such fast growth over the years undoubtedly causes problems and makes it difficult for any company to keep up with the demands of hosting such a vast wealth of moving images.
But the Conservative Party in the UK is set to announce today that if they ever get back in power, they would fine companies like YouTube if they fail to remove footage of violent or sexual attacks. They are also said to be announcing a Minister to tackle cyber-crime, which I really applaud.
Anything or anyone that can concentrate their efforts full-time on a crucial 21st century problem like that, has to be a positive change and something we are sorely lacking in the UK given the impact technology and the cyber realm has on our lives.
This week a woman claimed that her alleged rape was broadcast on YouTube and watched by 600 people. Now, those 600 people deserve shooting as much as anyone responsible for any crime. What kind of person wants to view such sick material?
Thankfully, one person saw sense to complain and YouTube rightly removed it immediately as they will do whenever something offensive is raised to them. But it begs the question of should it have got on there in the first place? The nature of a site like this is that a video can be watched by millions in the time between it being uploaded and someone being wise enough to complain. Notice and take down as it is called works well most of the time, but is it the solution when it allows a miniscule percentage to slip through?
Even the fines proposed wouldn’t stop disgusting and/or criminal videos hitting the web, only a complete pre-watching of content can do that. And with millions of videos an hour going onto YouTube, that is understandably impossible.
Video sites now account for five out of 10 of the fastest growing websites, with other brands including Veoh, Video Jug and Tudou all showing triple-figure growth. These firms have to ensure they are doing all they can to be pro-active when it comes to offensive content. I hate the argument proposed by many people claiming “who are we to censor the Internet?”.
Like publishers in the offline world are barred from printing words or pictures that breach laws, it’s about time the online world was put under similar strict rules. It takes major international co-operation to create a system like that and I’m pretty sure it’s not going to happen in the next decade. And in the fast-changing world of cyberspace, that’s the equivalent of a million years.
Just look at YouTube’s most recent announcement that it will launch a live video streaming service later this year. That technology allows people to broadcast continuous video to multiple viewers through a webcam.
If nasty videos can already be uploaded and viewed until someone complains, how long before we hear of people using streaming to broadcast crimes, offensive racist rants and disgusting sexual abuse of adults and children LIVE to millions around the world.
It’s a horrid thought but one that must be tackled immediately. If it takes laws, then those laws should be passed. Otherwise, there will be a tipping point when something horrendous happens, and then we’ll all be losers from draconian knee-jerk reactions
from politicians who only wake up to potential pitfalls of cyberspace… after the alarm has sounded and the lunatics have taken over the asylum.
What do you think? Should video-sharing sites like YouTube face tougher regulation? Post a comment below…