YouTube triggers comments debate as it alters policy

Users checking videos on YouTube YouTube's move has sparked a debate among users, many of whom have voiced their displeasure

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How much weight should you give to a stranger's opinion?

If you ask YouTube, the answer is: not much.

The video sharing website has made changes to the way users can comment on clips. Google, which owns the website, now requires them to sign up to its social network Google+ before they can post their thoughts.

Its justification? It says the move will help it customise the order comments are displayed in and give users more tools to moderate posts about their videos.

"Would you rather see comments from people you care about... or just whoever in the world was last to post?" it asked on its blog.

Start Quote

You get much more considered truthful and honest opinions expressed in forums where it is easier to link their comments back to the real names and profiles”

End Quote Robin Hamman Dachis Group Europe

But the move has caused many users to voice displeasure about the changes.

A petition on calling on Google to scrap the move has received nearly 200,000 signatures.

One of the concerns expressed by people supporting it is that by requiring users to have a Google+ profile the firm was taking away their anonymity.

"It's ethically wrong to force these changes onto an unwilling user base as it alienates them while devaluing the quality of the site and tarnishing your credibility," posted Aaron Vollhofer.

Troll trouble

It is perhaps not surprising that Google's move has sparked such a reaction.

Over the past few years the internet has provided a medium for people to express their thoughts and opinions on just about anything. Many of them did so under the cloud of anonymity.

But that has also given rise to a problem - trolls and other rude and uncivil online commentators who sometimes end up dominating the discussions.

"A user posting comments under an anonymous username is much more likely to post in ways that are offensive, unfair and reactionary," Robin Hamman, managing director of Dachis Group Europe, a social business consultancy, told the BBC.

"Giving people the shield of anonymity is basically inviting trouble."

YouTube images YouTube users have posted war-themed drawings to protest against the change

Mr Hamman added that firms were trying to tackle the issue by getting people to create proper profiles.

"You get much more considered, truthful and honest opinions expressed in forums where it is easier to link their comments back to the real names and profiles, which may have a bearing on their professional and personal lives," he explained.

'More vicious'

YouTube is not the only website to alter its policies on user comments in recent months.

In August news website Huffington Post announced it would no longer allow comments from anonymous accounts.

It said it was doing so because "trolls have grown more vicious, more aggressive, and more ingenious. As a result, comment sections can degenerate into some of the darkest places on the internet".

Nanotechnology pic said that aggressively negative comments could skew the interpretation of science stories

The firm said nearly three-quarters of the comments on its website "never see the light of day, either because they are flat-out spam or because they contain unpublishable levels of vitriol".

Then in September, Popular Science, the science and technology news website, shut off all comments on its site. It also blamed trolls.

"We are as committed to fostering lively, intellectual debate as we are to spreading the word of science far and wide," the website said.

"The problem is when trolls and spambots overwhelm the former, diminishing our ability to do the latter."

It cited research from the University of Wisconsin, which suggested that intemperate comments could polarise readers and skew their interpretations of a news story.

Some analysts say that the problem with vicious comments stems from the fact that firms were not fully ready to tackle the massive and rapid growth in user interaction.

They say that while companies have been keen to engage in two-way conversations with the public as a way to boost their business, they have not been fully prepared for the costs involved.

"When firms open the forum and comments on their websites they think that user-generated content is a cheap way of bringing more life to their page," said Mr Hamman.

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post has also taken steps to block anonymous users from posting comments

"Unfortunately that's not the case. It needs investment, both in technology and manpower to monitor this.

"By the time many firms realise this - the damage has already started to be inflicted," he added.

However, moderating comments can introduce its own issues.

The BBC, for example, screens posts added below stories on its news website. The move limits the number of stories that can be commented upon, leading some of the discussions to feature complaints from readers criticising the choice of articles.

YouTube and Huffington Post's solution also only goes part of the way to banning trolls.

It's not that difficult for someone to create a fake profile using a fictitious email address and start posting comments.

However, the sites hope that by putting up extra hurdles they may be able to at least discourage some of the troublemakers - or perhaps divert them elsewhere.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    Over the past few years the internet has provided a medium for people to express their thoughts and opinions on just about anything. Many of them did so under the cloud of anonymity.


    ooh errr just off to change my name by deed poll to :

    Alf Weeder-Sayin' Pet

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    ... but forcing me to join a service ....

    Nobody is forcing you to do anything. Why not join the real humans and have nothing to do with such sites. Real people for real talk!

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    I have noticed that people condemned as trolls are primarily those who disagree with the politically correct, fact avoiding, self opinions of the organization posting. Try the left- blogs and FB pages, where censorship and no platformism is advanced via war against trolls. As for the rude and vulgar; they condemn themselves. Perhaps we need a government inquiry. eh Dave

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.


    "Because I'm a teacher and I don't want my pupils to access all my details. Facebook offers privacy settings; Google+ and YouTube don't."

    G+ offers privacy settings. In fact I think the circles system is simpler than the facebook system and allows for more fine grain custom control.

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    If there is no reversal of googles bully boy spy tactics then I for one will close my account with them and never use them again.

    Take note advertisers, you will lose sales and potential advert viewers in huge numbers as they migrate to somewhere more user friendly and less invasive, and there are plenty to chose from out there.

    Googles if it's not careful will end up as extinct as the Dodo.

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    This is a non-story in that YouTube has been forcing people to "sign up" with Google or its other partners for some time. But it's certainly the case that YouTube seems to be a meeting place for nasty, abusive, bullying, often insane trolls who bloat the comments boxes, often over rather innocuous clips. I've also noticed people "ganging up" on comments they don't like, forcing them to be removed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    I'm 5 and even i like this article

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    Trolls, anglers , whatevr you call them have existed for eons. The last batch were bar room lawyers, the company bore etc etc. If you take to heart what people say then you really have a problem. I find most trolls amusing and always remember the saying "there is no worse sight than watching ignorance in action" I then carry on leading a normal life

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    never liked google at all, never will and their practices have always been rubbish. besides that, ive only trolled once or twice in my time online and luckily nothing too serious and the times i remember trolling were out of spite, or an over eager sense of arrogance about trying to make a point and ignoring the rules in the process. these trolls need to find a new hobby, a constructive hobby.

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    Seriously BBC, HYS has two fluff pieces about the new youtube comments section the word "selfie" and a gossip piece about the Toronto Mayor.

    At least give us one vaguely newsworthy HYS discussions today, how about our London Mayor Boris saying the super rich are a persecuted minority akin to the homeless, G4S getting the Commonwealth games security contract or the continued abuse of MPs expenses

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    I have a You Tube account, and for me I couldn't care less about negative comments, or trash. My aim is to provide an entertaining area for people that appreciate my offerings, I only absorb constructive and supportive comments, the guy or gal drowning in their own pail of vomit can carry on. I will ignore them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    This is just a scam to get people to sign up to their rubbish Google+ "service".
    If it was any good, people would have joined already.

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    "...where it is easier to link their comments back to the real names and profiles, which may have a bearing on their professional and personal lives,"

    Which is code for 'it makes it far easier to dox (intimidate) users who present opinions you do not agree with' Think i'm over reacting? some political groups on youtube are already using this as a method of silencing dissent and debate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    Google's justification for this move is a case study in disingenuousness. "Would you rather see comments from people you care about... or just whoever in the world was last to post?"

    Seriously? Restricting views to people you care about was already an option, or hadn't you noticed. Far more likely that it's a cynical drive to direct more traffic to Google+.

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    Don't underestimate the lengths that some people will go to in order to troll. I'm a part of a forum that requires a fee ($10) to sign up to. I know of at least one user who was repeatedly banned for trolling, yet would keep paying the $10 for a new account, just to troll again. He must have spent over $100 like this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    65 Catwalk: You mention the BBC as though that was the only show in town. Write something people want to read on your blog, set up your own company and website, surely you believe in the free market?

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    To allow morons to spread their vile and abusing garbage around websites without any restrictions is and should be unacceptable.
    With the freedom we have, to express ourselves, must come the responsibility to do so in a civilised manner, or there will soon not be much of civilisation left at all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    @58 Rate this comment negatively

    Are you a Nigerian Prince by any chance?

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    people go trolling because they think its funny, then when things start to be done about it they whine and cry like the immature little children they are. what did they expect to happen?

    also anyone else noticed how the trolls that have been arrested and locked up for posting hateful things all look like socially inept types that resemble golum ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    Get a life people ,Ditch the rubbish and all others like it


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