YouTube’s CEO refuses to admit the site radicalizes users in spite of all the evidence

GettySusan Wojcicki.
  • YouTubeCEO Susan Wojcicki was asked whether she believes that YouTube is radicalizing its users and politics during an interview on Monday at Recode’s Code Conference in Scottsdale, Arizona.
  • Wojcicki would not outright deny this but said that she believes that the platform offers a “diversity of opinions.”
  • She also said that YouTube is clamping down on its video recommendations for any videos that are classed as “borderline content.”
  • Wojcicki’s comments come after researchers at Data & Society found in 2018 that YouTube was a breeding ground for radicalisation.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

In an interview at Recode’s Code Conference on Monday, the CEO of YouTube responded to an uncomfortable question about whether she believes that YouTube is radicalizing its users and politics.

The question was asked by Kevin Roose, a journalist at The New York Times who published a story days before investigating the radicalization of young people on YouTube. Roose’s story tracked how one young man, a college dropout, sought direction via YouTube videos and was slowly seduced by the alt-right.

Through the experience of Caleb Cain, a 26-year-old who said he was sucked into right-wing politics through YouTube and has since become a vocal critic of the movement, Roose explained how some users are being strongly influenced by the videos that they watch on YouTube.

“YouTube has inadvertently created a dangerous on-ramp to extremism by combining two things: a business model that rewards provocative videos with exposure and advertising dollars, and an algorithm that guides users down personalised paths meant to keep them glued to their screens,” Roose wrote.

Wojcicki would not outright deny that YouTube was radicalizing users or politics but said that it offers a “broad range of opinions.”

“We see that we are offering a diversity of opinions,” she said.

Roose’s story was backed up by 2018 research from Data & Society, which found YouTube was a breeding ground for radicalisation.

Read more:
YouTube CEO apologised to the LGBTQ community for not banning videos involving homophobic slurs last week, but says she stands by the decision

But Wojcicki went on to talk about the steps that YouTube has taken to address the algorithms that Roose referred to in his piece, which recommend content to users based on what they have watched.

In January, YouTube introduced new changes in how it handles the recommendations on videos that are classed as having “borderline content,” she said.

YouTube determines what is borderline content by asking human video raters that are representative of different people across the US to answer a series of questions about videos they watch. Wojcicki said that so far it has reduced recommendations on borderline content by 50%.

“I think the combination of changes that we are making of our policies as well as the changes that we are making to our recommendations are going to make a really big difference,” she added.

Watch the full interview here:

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