- A new report from the New York Times says YouTube’s recommendation algorithm sent researchers from videos with sexual content to videos of children.
- The report has reignited concerns over predators abusing the platform, an issue that first came to light in February.
- YouTube responded by pointing to measures it has already taken, including restricting live features for children, disabling comments on videos featuring children, and limiting recommendations.
- The researchers suggest that YouTube’s recommendations should not feature videos with children at all, but YouTube says it fears a change like that would hurt creators.
Researchers say YouTube’s recommendation algorithm sent them from videos with sexual content to videos featuring minors, increasing the concern about pedophiles and predators abusing the platform, The New York Times reported Monday.
In the article, the Times interviewed a Brazillian mother who’s 10-year-old daughter uploaded a video to YouTube. The video, which featured the 10-year-old and a friend swimming in a backyard pool, racked up 400,000 views.
“I saw the video again and I got scared by the number of views,” the mother said.
The Times noted that the video was promoted by YouTube months after February, when the company was alerted about issues with pedophiles and predators on the platform.
At the time, YouTuber MattsWhatItIs published a video highlighting predators that would leave timecodes for compromising moments in the comments under videos of children. This was done in order to lead other pedophiles to these specific moments.
YouTube responded and said they would be disabling comments on videos that feature minors.
According to this latest report, the majority of videos on YouTube are viewed through the company’s recommendation algorithm. The algorithm creates a playlist of suggested videos YouTube believes the user should watch next. The researchers found that once they began viewing content with sexual themes, YouTube would start to recommend videos featuring children.
“Users do not need to look for videos of children to end up watching them,” the Times states. “The platform can lead them there through a progression of recommendations.”
Often the videos featuring children were uploaded as innocent fun, such as parents sharing home movies or a film made by their child. The concern comes when those innocent videos are recommended to users looking for sexual content.
The Times reports that researchers from Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center tested the recommendation algorithm for themselves while in Brazil. The researchers would start with sexually themed videos and follow the first recommended video shown, eventually landing on content that disturbed them.
The article explains that “videos of women discussing sex, for example, sometimes led to videos of women in underwear or breast-feeding, sometimes mentioning their age: 19, 18, even 16.”
As the researchers continued, YouTube then began suggesting that they watch videos of women seeking “sugar daddies” and adults in children’s clothing.
“From there,” the Times wrote, “YouTube would suddenly begin recommending videos of young and partially clothed children, then a near-endless stream of them drawn primarily from Latin America and Eastern Europe.”
When the Times told YouTube about their findings, the company removed some, but not all, of the videos they were shown. The article states that the recommendation system changed immediately and no longer linked some of the videos together. According to YouTube, it was likely the result of routine adjustments and not a deliberate policy change.
YouTube also published a blog post where they laid out all of the actions they have already put in place to combat pedophiles on the platform. This includes restricting live features for children, disabling comments on videos featuring children, and further limiting recommendations.
While these steps may help to combat the problem, according to researchers, the one thing that would truly make children safe is turning off the recommendation system for videos of children.
When the Times pressed the company, YouTube was wary to make the change because of how this could hurt creators, with recommendations driving 70 percent of views. However, they did say they would limit recommendations on videos that put children at risk.
See what others are saying (New York Times) (MIT Technology Review) (Gizmodo)
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey Says Trump Ban Was the “Right Decision” But Sets “Dangerous” Precedent
- While defending Twitter’s decision to permanently ban President Donald Trump, CEO Jack Dorsey noted the “dangerous” precedent such a move set.
- “Having to take these actions fragment the public conversation,” Dorsey said in a lengthy Twitter thread on Wednesday. “They divide us. They limit the potential for clarification, redemption, and learning.”
- Dorsey’s message came the same day Twitter fully reinstated Rep. Lauren Boebert’s (R-Co.) account, hours after locking it for violating Twitter rules. A Twitter spokesperson later described the lock as an “incorrect enforcement action.”
Dorsey Describes Trump Ban as a Double-Edged Sword
In a lengthy Twitter thread published Wednesday, CEO Jack Dorsey defended his platform’s decision to permanently ban President Donald Trump, while also noting the “dangerous” precedent such a unilateral move sets.
Twitter made the decision to ban Trump on Jan. 8, two days after pro-Trump insurrectionists stormed the U.S. Capitol complex in an assault that left multiple dead.
“I do not celebrate or feel pride in our having to ban [Trump] from Twitter, or how we got here,” Dorsey said in the first of 13 tweets.
Nonetheless, Dorsey described Trump’s ban as “the right decision for Twitter.”
“Offline harm as a result of online speech is demonstrably real, and what drives our policy and enforcement above all,” he added.
“That said, having to ban an account has real and significant ramifications,” Dorsey continued.
“[It] sets a precedent I feel is dangerous: the power an individual or corporation has over a part of the global public conversation.”
Dorsey described most bans as a failure of Twitter to “promote healthy conversation,” though he noted that exceptions to such a mindset also exist. Among other failures, Dorsey said extreme actions like a ban can “fragment public conversation,” divide people, and limit “clarification, redemption, and learning.”
Dorsey: Trump Bans Were Not Coordinated
Dorsey continued his thread by addressing claims and criticism that Trump’s ban on Twitter violated free speech.
“A company making a business decision to moderate itself is different from a government removing access, yet can feel much the same,” he said.
Indeed, multiple legal experts have stated that Trump’s ban on social media does not amount to First Amendment violations, as the First Amendment only addresses government censorship.
“If folks do not agree with our rules and enforcement, they can simply go to another internet service,” Dorsey added. However, Dorsey noted that such a concept has been challenged over the past week.
This moment in time might call for this dynamic, but over the long term it will be destructive to the noble purpose and ideals of the open internet. A company making a business decision to moderate itself is different from a government removing access, yet can feel much the same.— jack (@jack) January 14, 2021
Trump has now been banned or suspended from a number of platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. On Wednesday, Snapchat announced plans to terminate Trump’s account in the “interest of public safety.” Previously, Snapchat had only suspended his account, but as of Jan. 20, it will be permanently banned.
Addressing criticism of the swift bans handed down by these platforms in the wake of the Capitol attack, Dorsey said he doesn’t believe Trump’s bans on social media were coordinated.
“More likely: companies came to their own conclusions or were emboldened by the actions of others,” he said.
Twitter Reverses Course of Locking Rep. Lauren Boebert’s Account
Dorsey’s thread regarding the fragile nature of regulating users’ privileges on the platform seemed to play out earlier the same day.
On Wednesday, newly-elected Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Co.) posted a screenshot to Instagram showing that her Twitter account had been locked for six days. The screenshot stated that she had violated Twitter’s rules and would be unable to tweet, retweet, or like until her account was unlocked.
Hours later, Twitter reversed course and fully reinstated her account.
“In this instance, our teams took the incorrect enforcement action. The Tweet in question is now labeled in accordance with our Civic Integrity Policy. The Tweet will not be required to be removed and the account will not be temporarily locked,” a spokesperson for the platform told Insider.
It is unknown what tweet caused that initial ban, as Twitter refused to say.
The latest tweet from Boebert’s account to be tagged with a fact check warning is from Sunday. In that tweet, she baselessly and falsely accuses the DNC of rigging the 2020 Election, a claim that largely inspired the Capitol attacks.
See what others are saying: (Business Insider) (CNN) (Associated Press)
Uber and Lyft Drivers Sue To Overturn California’s Prop 22
- A group of Uber and Lyft drivers filed a lawsuit Tuesday against California’s controversial Prop 22, a ballot measure that was approved by nearly 59% of state voters in the 2020 election.
- While Prop 22 does promise drivers wage guarantees and health insurance stipends, it also eliminated some protections as well as benefits like sick pay and workers’ compensation.
- In their lawsuit, the drivers argue that Prop 22 “illegally” prevents them from being able to access the state’s workers’ compensation program.
What’s in the Lawsuit?
In a lawsuit filed Tuesday, a group of Uber and Lyft drivers asked California’s Supreme Court to overturn the state’s controversial Prop 22 ballot measure.
The drivers behind the lawsuit, along with Service Employees International Union, allege that Prop 22 “illegally” bars them from being able to participate in the state’s workers’ compensation program.
Additionally, they argue that the measure violates California’s constitution by“stripping” the state legislature of its ability to protect who unionize.
“Every day, rideshare drivers like me struggle to make ends meet because companies like Uber and Lyft prioritize corporate profits over our wellbeing,” Plaintiff Saori Okawa said in a statement.
Conversely, Uber driver and Prop 22 activist Jim Pyatt denounced the lawsuit, saying,“Voters across the political spectrum spoke loud and clear, passing Prop 22 in a landslide. Meritless lawsuits that seek to undermine the clear democratic will of the people do not stand up to scrutiny in the courts.”
California ballot measures have been occasionally repealed in the past; however, most of the time, they’ve only been repealed following subsequent ballot measures. If this lawsuit fails, such an initiative would likely be the last option for overturning Prop 22.
What is Prop 22?
Prop 22, which was approved by 59% of state voters in the 2020 Election, exempts app-based transportation and delivery companies from having to classify their drivers as employees. Rather, those drivers are listed as “independent contractors,” also known as gig workers.
Notably, Prop 22 was supported by major industry players like DoorDash, Uber, Lyft, and Instacart, which launched a massive $200 million lobbying and advertising campaign.
While those companies did promise wage guarantees and health insurance stipends for drivers, Prop 22 also eliminated a number of protections and benefits drivers would have seen under an “employee” status, including sick pay and workers’ compensation.
Because of that, many opponents have argued that the measure incentivizes companies to lay off their employees in favor of cheaper labor options.
Last week, it was reported that grocery stores like Albertsons, Vons, and Pavilions began laying off their delivery workers in favor of switching to ”third-party logistics providers.” According to Albertson’s, unionized delivery workers were not included in the layoffs.
In recent coverage from KPBS, one San Diego Vons delivery worker detailed a situation in which he and delivery workers were called into a meeting with management.
“I thought they were going to give us a bonus or a raise or something like that,” he said.
Ultimately, that employee was told he would be losing his job in late February, even though he had been with the company for two-and-a-half years.
“I didn’t want to tell them,” the employee said of his parents, one of whom is disabled. “I’m the breadwinner for the family.”
See what others are saying: (The Verge) (The Washington Post) (CNN)
Daniel Silva Blames Cory La Barrie for His Own Death in New Legal Filing
- Popular Tattoo artist Daniel Silva said the death of YouTuber Cory La Barrie was due to La Barrie’s “own negligence,” in response to a wrongful death lawsuit from his family.
- La Barrie died last May after Silva lost control of the sports car they were in, crashing into a street sign and tree.
- La Barrie’s family has accused Silva of negligence, saying his excessive speeding caused the crash. They also claim he was under the influence, though he was never formally charged with a DUI.
- According to TMZ, Silva filed documents saying La Barrie “assumed the risk of death when he jumped into Daniel’s car that fateful night back in May.”
Corey La Barrie’s Death
Popular tattoo artist Daniel Silva has blamed YouTuber Corey La Barrie for his own death in response to a wrongful death lawsuit from La Barrie’s family, according to TMZ.
The tabloid says he filed legal documents saying, “the car crash that led to Corey’s death was due to his own negligence, and he assumed the risk of death when he jumped into Daniel’s car that fateful night back in May.”
La Barrie died on May 10, his 25th birthday, after Silva was speeding and lost control of the sports car they were in, crashing into a street sign and tree.
Police say Silva tried to leave the scene but was stopped by witnesses. He was later arrested and charged with murder. Silva eventually reached an agreement with prosecutors to plead no contest to vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence.
In August, Silva was sentenced to 364 days in jail, with credit for 216 days served because of California sentencing guidelines, even though it had only been 108 days since the crash at the time.
He also earned five years of probation, 250 hours of community service, and a suspended prison sentence of four years, which would be imposed if he violates the terms of his probation.
Wrongful Death Suit
Silva still faces the family’s lawsuit, which they filed the same month their son died.
In it, La Barrie’s family has accused Silva of negligence, saying his excessive speeding caused the crash. They also claim he was driving under the influence.
It’s worth noting that people close to Silva have disputed that claim and he was never charged with a DUI. However, the first police statement about the crash labeled it a “DUI Fatal Traffic Collision.” Witnesses have said the two were partying earlier that night, though