YOUTUBE'S CLEAR-AS-MUD MODERATION RULES were once again confused this week as the site pulled a bunch of ethical hacking videos, only to reinstate them shortly afterwards.
"We made a video about launching fireworks over WiFi for the 4th of July only to find out @YouTube gave us a strike because we teach about hacking, so we can't upload it," tweeted the Hacker Interchange's Kody Kinzie. "YouTube now bans: 'Instructional hacking and phishing: Showing users how to bypass secure computer systems.'"
The trouble with this policy is that the world has a shortage of white hat cybersecurity experts, and it's an expensive field to get into. Yes, learning about site vulnerabilities can be used for illegal activity, but it's hard to fight what you can't learn about.
Indeed, YouTube parent company Google has a bug bounty page where it offers cash rewards for cybersecurity sleuths who help fix vulnerabilities exploited by ne'er-do-wells.
Hacking and cybersecurity videos exist in the kind of grey area that one-size-fits-all moderation isn't designed to cope with. Indeed, the full rule on videos depicting dangerous acts states that they're permitted as long as "the primary purpose is educational, documentary, scientific, or artistic (ESDA)." In other words, moderators have the tricky duty of ruling on intent as well as content.
Still, as grey area videos go, the intent is pretty clear in the case of Hacker Interchange, and so YouTube has duly relented.
"With the massive volume of videos on our site, sometimes we make the wrong call," a Google spokesperson told The Verge after the videos were restored. "We have an appeals process in place for users, and when it's brought to our attention that a video has been removed mistakenly, we act quickly to reinstate it."
That may be true in the abstract, but with over 65 years' worth of content added every day, your definition of "quickly" may be somewhat different to Google's. Unless you happen to get amplified by the press, as in this case. µ
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