YouTube reportedly ignored employee warnings of 'bad virality' in exchange for massive growth
- Youtube executives ignored employee warnings and shelved product changes that could have curbed the spread of toxic videos on its site, according to a Bloomberg report.
- The report - based on conversations with more than 20 current and former YouTube employees - described YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki's focus on an internal goal to reach 1 billion hours of viewing a day as coming at the expense of what some employees described as "bad virality".
- YouTube responded in a tweet on Tuesday, saying in part: "We can't stress this enough: Tackling challenges, misinfo, and harmful content remains our number one priority."
In their quest to drive massive viewer engagement, YouTube executives ignored employee warnings and shelved product changes that could have curbed the spread of toxic videos on its site, according to a Bloomberg report on Tuesday.
The report - based on conversations with more than 20 current and former YouTube employees - outlines multiple executive decisions that prioritized the site's growth ahead of cracking down on harmful content, such as conspiracy theories and graphic videos.
One incident reported by Bloomberg included an employee suggestion that YouTube should stop recommending videos that didn't necessarily violate hate-speech rules but were troubling nonetheless. Years later, in January, YouTube finally adopted this approach.
The report described YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki's focus on an internal goal to reach 1 billion hours of viewing a day. The company reached that milestone in 2016, but according to employees cited in the report, those massive engagement numbers came as troublesome videos were flourishing on the site. Some even nicknamed the problem "bad virality", according to the report.
YouTube started taking meaningful action in late 2017, when it cut off monetisation abilities for thousands of channels that pushed harmful videos. In the last quarter of 2018, YouTube removed 8.8 million channels for violating its guidelines, according to the report.
Last week, in a New York Times interview, Neal Mohan, YouTube's chief product officer, said the company has "made great strides" in curbing its recommendation of radical videos, known as the "rabbit hole effect".
On Tuesday, a YouTube spokesperson told Business Insider in part: "Over the past two years, our primary focus has been tackling some of the platform's toughest content challenges, taking into account feedback and concerns from users, creators, advertisers, experts and employees ... responsibility remains our number one priority."
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