Opinion: Is it time for YouTube to be regulated?

Columns & Opinion, Internet, Web 2.0, Websites

Jon_smal.gifJonathan 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…

Jonathan Weinberg
For latest tech stories go to TechDigest.tv


  • I agree. Parents cannot rely on safegaurds, in order for them to babysit their children.
    On top of that, youtube has proved itself more important to the community than we are giving it credit for. Universities are now using you tube. Business professionals may include clips inside their presentations. Decent folk are given an opportunity at independent filmwork and resume status… Believe me, the list goes on..

  • YouTube regulation is ridiculous!!! Keeping our kids safe is the responsibility of parents and teachers. Learn the right way to keep You Tube (and the internet for that mater) safe. I am a mother of 4 kids and ALL my kids go to http://www.isafe.org. They have some amazing free resources.

  • In recent months, I’ve experienced a lot of Internet-based censorship going on, and I really don’t think it fair. Our case in particular is with being able to post and/or publish content/videos/blogs related to our businesses.

    I understand that violence isn’t something the general masses should have access to (children under a certain age, for example), but what ever happened to free speech in this country? Why are the very venues meant for personal expression starting to censor users? How else are we to express ourselves if not through our own content?

    I really feel that a government (particularly a government of a country where this company is NOT based) shouldn’t have a say in, be able to regulate or be able to fine networking sites such as YouTube. The government already has their hands in enough, so that we can’t even get straight, truthful news these days. Next, they’ll want to start regulating blogs and personal websites…

    I understand the concept of censorship, and I understand who it’s meant to protect and why. However, we as citizens have a right to express ourselves in whatever way we choose (so long as it doesn’t harm others or promote illegal activity such as drug-trafficking or prostitution). I wouldn’t want to see a heinous act of violence on YouTube, but then I can just choose not to view it, and so can others.

    Censorship has gone way to far these days, even online. Government regulation and censorship are now starting to infringe upon the very rights they are there to uphold. If this is allowed, we all might as well become dictatorships (and start telling our citizens what to eat, drink and think). What the government thinks is best for its citizens is not always best…let the citizens decide!

    -Ina Stanley
    Real Estate 360°

  • Let me get this straight: You want a government, which can barely manage registering and tracking cars after being in the business nearly 100 years, to regulate a fast moving tech company or service? Yeah that’ll work well.

    Why is it the first thing that pops into people’s minds when something is happening they don’t like is “Let’s have the government handle it”. Besides national defense, is there anything that a government regulates well?

    Bloody socialists.

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