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 409.

    As I see it Google want people's real data so they can flog the info to advertisers. The solution is therefore simple: actively avoid any company that advertises on Google or buys Google's lists of data in order to send out spam adverts. If companies lose custom by being involved with Google they will rapidly pull out and Google will come crawling back to us; at which point users rule.

  • rate this

    Comment number 408.


    "I certainly do not want to give Google any more information so they can pester me with more useless ads."

    It's a double edged sword. They work hard to provide you with free content. They have to get paid somehow. Or do we expect Google to work for us like slaves?

  • rate this

    Comment number 407.

    I don't do Facebook, but I sometimes post comments on this and other websites on topics of interest. Sometimes light- hearted, sometimes acerbic, but never intentionally abusive or offensive.
    However if anonymity was removed I would not bother.
    I've heard too many stories of people being vilified or sacked from their jobs for what they've posted on line.
    Don't let the trolls spoil it for us all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 406.

    I absolutely love trolls, and trolling. Amid trolling comments, are serious posts as well that anybody can participate in. Basically, there are a group of people whose sensitivities are so distraught by the vulgarity of others that they must impose strict rules of conduct on the expression of others. I find that boring, and that's why I hardly go to Reuters anymore.

  • rate this

    Comment number 405.

    There is a commercial benefit to Google to do this so they have done it.
    There's no such thing as a free lunch etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 404.

    Am I missing something?

    I just logged into my YouTube account and was prompted to select whether I wanted to use my real name on YouTube or keep my username for YouTube and real name for Gmail.

    I chose to keep the two separate as they were before and all they did was create a new Google+ account for my YouTube page. The comments seem the same to me.

    What's the fuss about?

  • rate this

    Comment number 403.

    I use the name David B for two reasons.

    One being that I have been known by that name of many discussion boards for many years now.

    Another is that my surname is very uncommon, and hence easily googleable, and I don't want people from my dim and distant past bothering me.

    David B

  • rate this

    Comment number 402.

    "I'm not in favour of trolls, who it seems, can do an awful lot of damage, particularly to young teenagers. If you can't behave online; get offline"

    A more logical a airtight rule of thumb would be: 'if you can't deal with people saying things you don't like, don't engage in conversation with strangers'

  • rate this

    Comment number 401.

    Re: Adblock - ITV (for starters) now stop vids playing unless AdBlock is disabled for their site.
    I wonder how long til other companies follow suit :-(
    Now I use the ad-break (admittedly only 1-2 mins long, which is shorter than TV) to read/listen to something else useful :-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 400.

    why do you have to join Google+?

    Any Email address should be good enough.

    Sounds like an artificial way to increase Google+ popularity.

    I certainly do not want to give Google any more information so they can pester me with more useless ads.

  • Comment number 399.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 398.

    Google, an American company, are just following the national mindset of the good old You Ess of Ay. Do as we tell you, let us watch you, or we'll inter drone you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 397.

    "A user posting 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


    Robin Hamman? Is that his/her real name?

    Is this even a real person?

    The only one with no photo on their corporate website profiling "Thought Leaders"

  • rate this

    Comment number 396.

    It needs to be repeated that Mr Hamman tells an absolutely EPIC lie in this article - people are *not* more honest when forced to post under their real names, they are less honest, for extremely obvious reasons. Why hasn't he been called out for telling the diametric opposite of the truth?

  • rate this

    Comment number 395.

    389. Toby

    "The thing is they have no way of knowing whether your "real name" is your actual name."

    The fact is Google already know more about you than government snoopers could ever dream about. They just want to top it off with having your real name by legal consent rather than by data mining.

  • rate this

    Comment number 394.

    Enjoy this internet golden age while it lasts. We will have a few more years of the internet being relatively open and free and after it will be locked down by the combined interests of governments, corporations and political pressure groups. Future generations won't believe you when you describe it as it is now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 393.

    Yes lets pretend unpleasant people don't exist. The problem as many people have pointed out is its a slippery slope. Next you need to prove people are who they say they are or its just a waste of time. You get bots opening accounts and posting spam along with trolls. Good luck with that Google maybe you could ask the NSA to help you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 392.

    duckduckgo..Nokia maps..internet explorer
    Y/tube..only google prod. I can't avoid.But I have adblock,I bock their tracking,don't log in
    Not used IE for yrs-found F/fox better.Has IE improved? Does Fi/fox hv major issues? Don't like Chrome..
    I only login to Y/tube to comment on interesting vids,but new system might alter habit.Pity,one gains alot frm (reasonable) discussion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 391.

    What are we to do? The freedom to 'publish'anything at all means that we are going to be hit by the nasties in society. As with so many things in life, it's the unpleasant minority messing up the playground. How about a filth monitor to remove posts? But then, who decides what should stay? The open internet? Gone, buddy.

  • Comment number 390.

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


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