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 229.

    If I wasnt aloud 2 use fake details on 95% of the websites I visit, I would either not visit or steal some1s identity & use that.

    Cant expect us not to use fake details when all the companies are selling our details. Even if google told me "we dont sell details", still wouldnt trust them.

    Make cold calls & sales calls illegal & I might think about using my real details. But even then I doubt it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 228.

    Anonymous feedback can be a good thing, but trolls and spambots are taking over. Furthermore, too many people are using anonymity to act irresponsibly. No doubt this stems from increased professional, legal, religious, and social pressure to conform. The West prides itself on its freedoms, but clearly people don't feel they can express themselves. That's a problem with society, not YouTube.

  • rate this

    Comment number 227.

    YouTube was previously one of the least moderated corporate sites on the internet - Google basically ignored all reports of people crossing the line.

    They haven't suddenly grown a conscience. We all know this is just a smokescreen. Google's throwing a paddy about losing the social media battle.

    The measures won't work, and internet anonymity is a very valuable thing, which only needs moderation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 226.

    218. Helio Spheric
    "If you can't say something constructive, and which you wouldn't like to be associated with, then you shouldn't be saying it."

    Which means your comment is irrelevant and should be deleted!

  • rate this

    Comment number 225.

    Trolls have been around since the early days of discussion boards of all types. In essence they are the people who have always gone out of their way the ruin things for everyone else with name calling, snide or nasty remarks, inappropriate remarks for what the board is about. Have seen boards about classic cars where some troll comes in and rants about the car not noticing its for collectors.

  • Comment number 224.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 223.

    People should not expect to join a club and be anonymous.

    The club should respect confidentiality and privacy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 222.


    Yes, because censorship is fine as long as it's against what I dislike.

  • rate this

    Comment number 221.

    Google's latest move won't stop anonymous posting, especially since they allow you to create a Google+ profile with a pseudonym, which is what I did.

    Anonymous posting is valuable since it allows you freedom to say what you want and not worry about the comment coming back to haunt you several years down the line if in retrospective it was ill-advised or controversial.

  • rate this

    Comment number 220.

    So it's impossible to create a fake G+ account is it? The possibilities to harvest-data via their own black-mirror from the billions of happy-sharers out there was enormous, they just didn't count on the Snowden revelations... So they forced youtuber account owners into their dying network, you can't comment on videos unless you have G+, it'll become a live censorship system before too long.

  • rate this

    Comment number 219.

    "Many political dissidents are being put in jail merely because they write some political essays online."

    And how is that relevant to Youtube? Any political dissident who was thinking of uploading a video to Youtube is welcome to post something to one another website of the millions out there.

    Equating acceptance of Youtube's move with support of repression is a poor, poor argument.

  • rate this

    Comment number 218.

    If you can't say something constructive, and which you wouldn't like to be associated with, then you shouldn't be saying it.

  • Comment number 217.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 216.

    Do what I do, vote with your wallets.

    Or rather, install adBlock and continue using youtube while avoiding giving Google a penny.

  • rate this

    Comment number 215.

    I have been called a troll many times, but my motives are exposing a scam called Banners Broker. If I wasn't anonymous, I could never have achieved what I have. A 'troll' seems to cover anybody with a view that isn't your own.

  • rate this

    Comment number 214.

    Simple solution - vote with your feet !

    Just go to another (better) video site - there are tens of thousands.

    Why are people determined to continue to use something that no longer works ?

    When it's no longer any use - throw it out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 213.

    What makes people think they have a right to freedom of expression on YouTube?
    It is a commercial business. The only people who have a say in the way it's run are it's shareholders. It is not owned or run by the people, for the people.
    As with any other commercial business, as a Customer, if I don't like what they do I take my business elsewhere. Vote with your mouse.

  • rate this

    Comment number 212.

  • rate this

    Comment number 211.

    200) Dear, those who jailed for their political views would most probably sided with the people who encourage others to voice their opinions without the fear of prosecutions. Many political dissidents are being put in jail merely because they write some political essays online. Were they "trolling" then? You have all your rights to use truth identity online but don't force others the same.

  • rate this

    Comment number 210.

    I always use my real name when posting on the internet :0)

    If you have an Android device then you need a Google email address anyway. If you want to use a free OS then signing up to services from the people that own the OS is just the price you pay.

    No-one is forcing people to put put comments on Youtube.


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