Google has today launched a series of day-long workshops for 13 to 18-year-olds in the UK, as part of Youtube’s ‘Creators for Change’ programme. The programme aims at tackling various social issues online, as well as promoting “awareness”, “tolerance and empathy”. The sessions come in the wake of recent backlash over Youtube’s restricted mode, which some users claim censors videos with LGBTQ+ content, and the spread of misinformation online.
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With the web sprawling with fake news and trolls, the need for more positive action online has become an issue of greater importance. Youtube’s Internet Citizens programme hopes to teach young people how to use tools for flagging content and comment moderation, so as to better help them tackle some of the challenges of online platforms. In particular, the programme includes topics such as how to handle offensive speech online, spotting fake news and using videos to increase diversity.
Designed by the Institute of Stargetic Dialogue, in partnership with UK Youth and Livinity, the content of the Internet Citizens programme was constructed by a group of advisors from various organisations, including the MET Police and the Active Change Foundation.
Hosted by YouTube creators Nadir Nahdi, Alain Clapham and Efe Ezekiel, Google’s aims for the Internet Citizens programme is to give people the chance to meet those who “have mastered the art of using their voice and creativity to drive social change.” Efe Ezekiel, a youth mentor, describes the programme as “an outstanding way for young people to learn about issues, topics and politics that are affecting their daily lives via social media and the digital world.”
Youtube’s Internet Citizens programme launches today in Liverpool and will visit youth clubs across the country in the coming months, in an effort to tackle hate speech. Google describes it as “one part of our commitment to a better web” and says it has been trialling the workshops for some weeks.
The move comes after complaints that Youtube’s restricted mode censored some LGBTQ+ content. While Youtube’s restricted mode is off by default, when activated it appeared to remove content referencing LGBTQ+ themes, or videos affiliated with LGBTQ+ Youtube creators. The issue was first raised in March 2016
In a statement to TechCrunch, Google initially claimed that “Restricted mode is an optional feature used by a very small subset of our users who want a more limited experience” and that, while LGBTQ+ videos are available, videos that contained “sensitive” topics were not. These topics included those pertaining to health, politics and sexuality.
In a video criticising Youtube, entitled ‘Youtube is Anti-LGBT?’, Rowan Ellis claimed that Youtube’s restricted mode showed a clear bias towards LGBTQ content, stating that it was a reflection of the platform’s views as to “appropriate” content.
The hashtags #YoutubeIsOverParty and #YoutubePartyIsOver trended on twitter as Youtube’s users questioned the company’s attitude towards diverse content.
On March 20, YouTube tweeted that it may have made a mistake when developing the restricted mode filters, saying “Some videos have been incorrectly labelled and that’s not right. We’re on it.”
Youtube’s restricted mode relies on community flagging, age restrictions and other signals to determine which videos are appropriate.