It’s the never-ending war for YouTube.
Every minute, YouTube is bombarded with videos that violate many of its principles, be it pornography or copyrighted material or violent extremism or dangerous misinformation. The company has improved its artificially intelligent computer systems in recent years to prevent most of the offending videos from being uploaded to the website, but continued surveillance for failing to prevent the spread of dangerous content.
In an effort to demonstrate its effectiveness in finding and removing videos that violate the rules, YouTube on Tuesday revealed a new metric: Breaking View Rate. That is the percentage of total YouTube views that came from videos that did not meet its guidelines before the video was removed.
In a blog post, YouTube says infringing videos accounted for 0.16% to 0.18% of all views on the platform in Q4 2020. Or, in other words, out of every 10,000 YouTube views, 16 to 18, were for content that violated YouTube’s rules and was eventually removed.
“We’ve made a lot of progress and it’s a very, very low number, but of course we want it to be lower,” said Jennifer O’Connor, YouTube’s trust and safety team director.
The company says its infringement viewing rate has improved from the previous three years: 0.63% to 0.72% in Q4 2017.
YouTube said it did not disclose the total number of times problem videos were viewed before they were removed. That reluctance highlights challenges facing platforms, like YouTube and Facebook, that rely on user-generated content. The company says even as YouTube makes progress in capturing and removing banned content – computers detect 94% of videos having problems before they are viewed – the total number of views is still a staggering number. because the foundation is too large.
Ms O’Connor said YouTube decided to disclose a percentage instead of an overall number because it helps contextualize the significance of the questionable content to the overall platform.
YouTube has released metrics the company has been tracking for years and is expected to fluctuate over time, as part of a quarterly report outlining how it enforces its guidelines. In the report, YouTube provided the total number of offensive videos (83 million) and comments (seven billion) that YouTube has removed since 2018.
Although YouTube identifies those reports as a form of accountability, the data is based on YouTube’s own rules for which videos violate its guidelines. If YouTube finds fewer offending videos – and therefore removes fewer of them – then the view rate of the offending video may decrease. And no data is subject to an independent audit, although the company does not rule it out in the future.
“We started out by publishing these numbers and we provided a lot of data,” said Ms O’Connor. “But I’m not going to take that off the table right away.”
YouTube also said it is counting views freely. For example, a view is still counted even if a user stopped watching before reaching a disapproved portion of the video, the company said.