After years of political controversy hurting its monopolistic business empire, YouTube has decided to hire both progressive political publishers and conservative political publishers to help crisis manage the highly contentious discourse among its own creators, according to a new batch of careers pages as found by The New York Times.
Despite the focus on crackdowns against supremacist content and conspiracy theories, the pages reveal managers will specifically focus their attention on “advising partners on YouTube channel development strategies, incoming requests, troubleshooting and representing the political publisher landscape within the organization,” as well as “bringing issues to resolution” and “organiz[ing] programs and events to help political publishers best utilize YouTube… in collaboration with cross-functional teams.”
From the posts, it’s unclear whether managers have more of an advisory or administrative authority over creators, whether the services are free and obligatory to accessing monetization through the YouTube Partnership Program (YTPP) and how many are expected to be hired and working with creators at a given time. Even still, the decision to hire representatives to help oversee current political contention is an appreciated step forward, despite ignoring the platform’s inherent problems that underlay its financial reign over the digital space.
The careers were later confirmed by a YouTube spokesperson who explained managers are being drafted into the platform’s growing news division. “One of the ways we work with top creators is by connecting them with a YouTube Partner Manager,” says Ivy Choi, a spokesperson for YouTube, who gave a statement to The Verge. “We have experts for many of our content categories and are growing the partnerships team that works specifically with news creators — for both conservative and progressive news outlets.”
From Choi’s comments, it appears YouTube is merely expanding its current partner manager services in other industries like gaming and beauty, assisting users in “understanding platform policy… product features, forging relationships with our largest… creators/publishers and managing content programs along with our cross-functional Google Play partners.” If YouTube is going to maintain its status quo economic empire, which my work has critiqued as woefully inept at interpreting content, sources, harassment, incitement and other controversies plaguing the platform, hiring bipartisan managers does show a good willingness to mitigate the damage.
“We have four freedoms under which YouTube operates,” YouTube executive Robert Kyncl explained in an interview to The Hollywood Report, “freedom of expression, freedom of opportunity, freedom to belong and freedom of information. They truly become our North Star during difficult times. For me, having come from a place that didn’t have freedom of information and freedom of expression, they’re extremely important. Our message is that we absolutely are leaning into the freedom of information and freedom of expression, subject to our community guidelines. We don’t intend to be on one side or another.” YouTube’s financial status, however, is the one side exempt from the rules.
In recent days, the world’s largest online video platform has admitted to reforming the platform amid the fallout of #VoxApocalypse, the monetization crisis that sparked after conservative provocateur Steven Crowder was called out for bullying fellow YouTube creators such as the former Vox contributor Carlos Maza, resulting in direct stochastic harassment via doxing by his audience.
While Crowder lost his advertising rights for using racist and homophobic slurs, YouTube’s flip-flopping response on what constituted an offense in their elusive policies left everyone confused and conflicted. Under the current flawed system, both a YouTube arbitration process and specialized managers handling the crisis directly could have been mitigated the damage from YouTube’s crypto-libertarian rule over the market.
Last week, we reported that YouTube is desperately trying to reform its market justice system by running tests allowing select channels to submit behind the scenes videos to overturn demonetization status, allowing users a chance to explain their “creative process” and argue for ad reinstatement, showcasing a company email guaranteeing a decision within seven business days. We praised the policy as a gesture of community outreach, but it maintained the problem with corporate being the judge, jury, and executioner of its marketplace.
Through having no need for impartial overseers, a clearly enforced charter with substantive community approval, presentable (counter-)evidence to policy infringements and decentralization allowing for more competition among the public space, YouTube places itself as an otherworldly authority over digital distribution. In the context of politics, this dynamic lends too much power when it comes socio-economic bias, information influence, unilateral judgment and drastic consequences where actions and inactions are tantamount to industry banishment and danger-enabling.
This same frustration with the platform’s business model has even trickled up into its rank-and-file content moderators, most of which being those working for third-party outsourcing companies across the US who describe symptoms of PTSD related to the stressful, harmful and shameful nature of their online work. “When I started this job I thought, I’m going to help get bad content away from kids,” a former moderator for YouTube told The Washington Post. “Our responsibility was never to the creators or to the users — it was to the advertisers.”
This isn’t to say YouTube can’t make a good judgment on a bad actor for economic advantage. Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones raised similar concerns over YouTube’s power shortly before his channel InfoWars was terminated, which was decided based not on political views but on numerous policy grounds related to doxing, harassment, incitement of violence, disinformation and other areas of contention, according to numerous YouTube statements spread around the media. This lack of official transparency, inherent to a platform ruling over billions across various industries, lends itself to narratives that YouTube is out to screw users (which isn’t without some merit, in fairness).
That said, a fair process would leave actors like Jones enough rope to hang themselves. If men like Jones are given advisement on what constitutes an offense, are reported for repeatedly violating such offenses and are publicly vilified as an unsuitable infringer forced to fuck off back to the very same free market system he champions, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Given he’s been ostracised behind-closed-doors without so much as informed counsel, due process, chances of redemption and a file to trace why enforcement took place, he’s still maintained as some pathetic martyr for injustice when it’s all built on a lie of his own injustices.
Ultimately, the platform has been stuck between the desire to be a platform for argumentation, cultural expression and profit under a system they admit prioritize crazies for cash. “There’s a spectrum on YouTube between the calm section, the Walter Cronkite, Carl Sagan part, and Crazytown, where the extreme stuff is,” said Tristan Harris, a former design ethicist at Google, YouTube’s parent company. “If I’m YouTube and I want you to watch more, I’m always going to steer you toward Crazytown.” With the introduction of managers to the crazy market, YouTube is deciding to slowly put its money where its mouth is when it comes to easing politics away from radicalization, albeit through its own self-interested management.