Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

'We're Changing How We Work' TECH YouTube's Tech Chief Is Targeting Harmful Videos. Amelia Heathman Hears More

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

'We're Changing How We Work' TECH YouTube's Tech Chief Is Targeting Harmful Videos. Amelia Heathman Hears More

Article excerpt

Byline: Amelia Heathman

IT'S A difficult time to be running a social media platform. People are dropping off Facebook, 8chan is offline following accusations it contributed to a mass shooting by a suspected white supremacist in Texas, and YouTube seems to be battling fires weekly, from paedophiles linking each other to videos of young children via comments, to the neo-Nazis that plague the video platform.

Despite this, its chief product officer Neal Mohan is upbeat when I meet him at YouTube Space near King's Cross, to talk about the work it is doing to stop its algorithm uplifting "borderline" or potentially harmful content on the platform.

This algorithm has undergone a fair beating recently. YouTube's target of one billion hours watched every day set by CEO Susan Wojcicki and achieved back in 2017 meant the algorithm was designed to keep people online. Divisive content, whether from anti-vaxxers, flat-Earthers or other conspiracy theorists, has grown and grown. Now it's time to change, says Mohan, pictured below. "This notion of our responsibility as a global platform has been a top priority for us for the last couple of years. We've introduced more than 30 policy changes, we have moderators rating videos based on the changes. We've built up dozens of machine-learning systems to detect content that might potentially violate the new policy changes we've developed."

He says the company is starting to see some success. Tweaks were made in its Up Next algorithm in the US, leading to a 50 per cent reduction in this harmful content, according to YouTube's figures. The same technology will be rolled out in the UK too this week.

To help it determine what counts as borderline or harmful content, YouTube engaged hundreds of ordinary people in the UK in a research exercise. Provided with the firm's community guidelines, they were asked to watch videos and answer questions about them. …

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