'We aren't quite where we want to be': Google's CEO admits to failings on harmful content after YouTube’s week from hell

YouTube/HBOGoogle CEO Sundar Pichai was interviewed by Axios reporter Ina Fried.
  • Google CEO Sundar Pichai said in an Axios interview on Sunday that YouTube is not “where we want to be” in terms of regulating harmful content on its platform.
  • Pichai said YouTube is trying to rank videos by quality in the same way it ranks results on Google.
  • He said it is both a “computer science problem” and a “hard societal problem” for the company.
  • It follows the row over YouTube’s approach to Steven Crowder, a right-wing YouTuber who targeted Vox journalist Carlos Maza with homophobic slurs.
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Google CEO Sundar Pichai admitted in an interview on Sunday that when it comes to reining in harmful content, YouTube is not keeping up.

Axios reporter Ina Fried asked Pichai about his take on YouTube’s struggles with harmful content, specifically referring to the case of a 14-year old girl whose YouTube channel consisted largely of anti-Muslim, antisemitic, and homophobic tirades.

“I don’t know all the details of this specific video, but in general none of us want harmful content on our platforms,” replied Pichai on the latest episode of “Axios on HBO.”

Although the video was aired on Sunday, it was filmed before another story erupted about YouTube’s policies on abuse and harassment – namely YouTube’s approach to Steven Crowder, a right-wing YouTuber whose consistent homophobic mockery of Vox journalist Carlos Maza was pushed into the spotlight.


Read more:
YouTube’s week from hell: How the debate over free speech online exploded after a conservative star with millions of subscribers was accused of homophobic harassment

Pichai said Google is taking the same approach to YouTube as it does to Google search by trying to proactively rank content by quality in an effort to hinder “borderline content.”

“It’s a hard computer science problem, it’s also a hard societal problem because we need better frameworks around what is hate speech, what’s not, and how do we as a company make those decisions at scale and get it right,” he said.

“We aren’t quite where we want to be,” Pichai admitted.

Amid the uproar that stemmed from its handling of Crowder, YouTube last week announced it was updating its policies to crack down on extremist videos.

You can watch Axios’ interview here:

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