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 209.

    Trolling is nothing new, it has been done since the first BBS were put up on the Internet. If people really want to troll YouTube comments, which are stupid enough in their own right, there's nothing stopping them from making a new Gmail account and then using a fake name. I do think pseudonyms do have their place though, because most people don't really want their identities stolen.

  • rate this

    Comment number 208.

    There's a simple way to change commenting to something that you have better control of, disable comments, and get yourself a forum, there are many free forums out there, many are easy to use, then just create a topic for each video, and link to the forum topic from your YT description.
    I have had a forum attached to one of my profiles for years, I will start making more use of it

  • rate this

    Comment number 207.

    The problem with Google is it knows no one wants to use it's products, like Google+ so they are using this guise of troll-bashing system to simply force people to use they're unpopular social media - which will make people hate it even more.

    Google have done this before with Blogger - the only way to edit blogger succesfully is by using Google Chrome.

    Google are now monopolising the internet

  • Comment number 206.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 205.

    If you don't like what trolls say, ignore them.
    No-one can offend you unless you let them.

    Why do I use a pseudonym? Because the internet is full of crazy people, and for all I know you could be one of them, so I don't want you to know who I am or where I live. (I know you could find out if you REALLY wanted to, but that would take determination AND intelligence. Trolls don't have both.)

  • rate this

    Comment number 204.

    There is nothing wrong with speaking anonymously as long as you don't cross the line. People don't always hide behind a fake name for bad reasons.

  • rate this

    Comment number 203.

    I'd rather the BBC limited the amount as it does now than see the uncensored
    rubbish that a free-for-all comments option would open up to the trolls.

  • rate this

    Comment number 202.

    I know I'll have to wash my mouth out for saying this, but perhaps a couple of BBC type moderators could be used (Google can afford this more than the BBC) to cut out the filthy diatribes on many of the You Tube posts for even classical music, not just the Pop. They are worse than the Ministry of Sound ads before the Mozart.

  • rate this

    Comment number 201.

    The internet is (or rather was) the last bastion of free speech.

    You cannot express yourself in public because of our victim culture promoting sueing for slight infractions and "emotional damage". On the internet you can say whatever you like without fear of grossly exaggerated repercussion.

    Welcome to Britain, where thought crime is real. Enjoy your heavily monitored stay.

  • rate this

    Comment number 200.

    "And I would like to ask; what kind of people would so venomously against online anonymous comment posting??? Maybe dictators??"

    How about people who hold the opinion - which they are perfectly entitled to hold - that it's not worth the bullying it encourages.

    To compare that to a dictatorship is an insult to the thousands of people worldwide jailed for political views.

  • rate this

    Comment number 199.

    There is no anonymity over the Internet. If people want to find out who you are and where you live, they will find out. That's how hackers are caught.

  • rate this

    Comment number 198.

    I like the ability to edit posts.

    Sadly the one thing that annoys me is the return of the long believed vanquished set of idiotic posts that go along the lines of 'Copy and paste this to 4 other videos or you will die in 4 days!'.

    I seriously thought most of youTube, as immature as it may be, had at least grown out of that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 197.


    The problem is people these days are easily offended, we can't say things like "Merry Christmas" because it offends somebody and to offend somebody means you said something that wasn't nice.

    That ties into your little saying.

    Somethings are not socially acceptable because they challenge social norms and people don't like it.

    Online freedom of speech exists, sometimes abused though.

  • rate this

    Comment number 196.

    A poster here stated that only "trolls" would oppose the idea of using their real identity when posting comments online. I really really beg to differ. And I would like to ask; what kind of people would so venomously against online anonymous comment posting??? Maybe dictators??

  • rate this

    Comment number 195.

    I do not see how having to register a profile is curtailing anyone's internet freedom. I do believe that users still have the freedom to NOT visit Youtube or any other site, Or even better still, create their own rival website with no adverts and allow any anonymous user to post. I'd love to see how long they could keep that up with no revenues, and just trolls for users....

  • rate this

    Comment number 194.

    This is not about trolls.

    It's about Google trying desperately to bump up its Google+ numbers in a futile attempt to compete with Facebook.

    They can shove it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 193.

    Agree with Google on this. People should take responsibility for their comments and if they aren't brave enough, they should go do something else.

  • Comment number 192.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 191.

    80. nugget "give us one vaguely newsworthy HYS discussion today"

    Hey, at least it's not some variation on 'what should we do about all the fat people', versions of which now seem to come up every couple of days. Guaranteed troll-bait, and the BBC know full well that they'll bite. With Youtube, FB, HYS etc, I subscribe to the old adage 'if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 190.

    Given that what I write is exactly the same as whatever I would say to a persons face, I have no issue with whether my user name is anonymous or not. I want to use the You Tube service, so if I need to do that with my real name it makes no difference to me.


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