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YouTube's struggle to police its channels

YouTube conspiracy video controversy
YouTube conspiracy video controversy 01:40

This year was supposed to be the year YouTube cleaned up its act. It has pledged to weed out "bad actors" following some notable gaffes that caused advertisers to voice concern that their brands were appearing next to extremist content. 

In December, YouTube said it would hire 10,000 moderators to weed out fake or misleading videos, but some users say that effort may have gone overboard. Some right-wing commentators and pro-gun voices have been removed from the video site, according to Bloomberg News.

Among the creators that have reportedly been targeted is Military Arms Channel, which has almost 680,000 subscribers. On Monday, the channel wrote on its Facebook page that it hadn't been able to post new videos to YouTube for two weeks, and it suggested that creators who are "fighting for our 2nd Amendment rights" are being targeted by the crackdown. 

It's no surprise that gun-related videos are in the crossfire, given the national debate over gun control in the wake of the Parkland school massacre, which killed 17 students and teachers. In the aftermath, YouTube was criticized for allowing a video to air that erroneously claimed student David Hogg was an actor

Others are supporting right-wing voices and firearms-focused channels, describing YouTube's efforts as "censorship" and "over-zealous."

YouTube didn't immediately return a request for comment. Its efforts at moderating content highlight the challenges for social media networks to respond to fake or extremist material while maintaining an open channel for voices across the political spectrum. 

At the center of the issue are advertisers, which contribute $27 billion in annual revenue to parent Google (GOOG). YouTube is under pressure from advertisers to clean up its content following the recent Logan Paul scandal and other issues with questionable videos. 

Aside from hiring moderators, the service earlier this year overhauled its system for how and where to run ads. Channels now need at least 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 hours of watch time during the past year to earn money from ads that run on their pages, instead of the earlier threshold of 10,000 total views. 

It's not the first time that right-wing content creators have claimed YouTube is targeting them. In October, a conservative media company called PragerU sued YouTube, alleging that the service was censoring its videos. The lawsuit claims the service was "discriminating against its right to freedom of speech solely because of PragerU's political identity and viewpoint as a non-profit that espouses conservative views on current and historical events."

Downsides of YouTube's trending tools 03:39

Among those claiming they've been targeted include InfoWars, the site run by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. The publication alleges it's "an easy target" for YouTube, which has given InfoWars two warnings out of a maximum of three, after which it could be "permanently pulled." 

YouTube told Bloomberg News that some content was mistakenly removed from the site. 

"As we work to hire rapidly and ramp up our policy enforcement teams throughout 2018, newer members may misapply some of our policies resulting in mistaken removals," a YouTube spokeswoman told the publication. "We're continuing to enforce our existing policies regarding harmful and dangerous content, they have not changed. We'll reinstate any videos that were removed in error."

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