The reason YouTube is appealing is similar to Instagram: It is a space, first and foremost, for creators. But 2017 was a tough year for Youtube: Like other social platforms (lookin' at you, Facebook and Twitter), it was forced to reckon with gaps in its policies and the unexpected abuses that took place.
The most recent controversy involved A-list YouTuber Logan Paul, whose misguided video showing an apparent suicide victim in Japan received widespread backlash, some of which was directed at YouTube for its delayed response.
Today, CEO Susan Wojcicki took to YouTube's Creator Blog to address users more broadly. In her post, Wojcicki lays out five company priorities for the people whose viral videos and addictive DIY channels have propelled YouTube to the massive success it is today. Reading the priorities might strike you as a bit of déjà vu: They are quite similar to messages Facebook and Twitter have also put out in recent months. This resemblance isn't a bad thing necessarily, but it's surely a sign that we've reached a point when big tech has some serious things to figure out — and it's complicated.
Wojcicki's five priorities for 2018 include continuing transparency and communication (this blog post serving as a first step), finding new revenue streams for creators, introducing new tools for interacting with fans, investing in learning and education, and — perhaps the most relevant of the five — tightening and enforcing policies.
"Some of our policies are no-brainers, like preventing people from impersonating other channels or using misleading thumbnails," Wojcicki writes. "But others are far more nuanced and unique to YouTube. We realize we have a serious social responsibility to get these emerging policy issues right, so we seek advice from dozens of expert advisors and third-parties."
Just as Facebook has hired more employees to focus on tackling fake news, Wojcicki says YouTube and Google plan to add additional reviewers to look over flagged content. Other efforts in the policy arena include work with news organizations to "better surface content from authoritative sources", as well as new consequences for creators whose work violates YouTube's code of conduct. Additionally, YouTube will continue working with the Anti-Defamation League on hate speech and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on on issues of self-harm.
Among the comments to Wojcicki's post, many YouTubers expressed concern that the platform was not supporting creators with smaller numbers of followers, while others worried about censorship. One comment called for actions over words. It's yet to be seen how vigorously YouTube will follow through on the priorities Wojcicki has laid out, but it is important for the creator community and audience to hold the company accountable.