Americans are freedom loving people, and nothing says freedom like getting away with it.
From Long, Long Time by Guy Forsyth
The good thing about the Internet is that it brought people together. The bad thing about the Internet is that some of those people previously only met on Death Row.
The New York Times has caught YouTube up to their old tricks, none of which will come as a surprise to team MTP or anyone else in the music business. We have fought Google (and Facebook, Twitter and essentially every business using user generated content) about what boils down to one basic problem: Google doesn’t pay any attention to what is being uploaded onto their monopoly video platform. Google monetizes that failure–looking the other way–and that failure creates easily foreseeable commercial harm. We even have a name for it: the “Value Gap.”
But this time, the Times has surfaced how Google’s cavalier “see no evil” attitude is harming children. This psychological and developmental harm isn’t about the value gap, it’s more about the depraved greed that produces another kind of gap altogether–a values gap. And of course Google is trying to cover it up.
It was a typical night in Staci Burns’s house outside Fort Wayne, Ind. She was cooking dinner while her 3-year-old son, Isaac, watched videos on the YouTube Kids app on an iPad. Suddenly he cried out, “Mommy, the monster scares me!”
When Ms. Burns walked over, Isaac was watching a video featuring crude renderings of the characters from “PAW Patrol,” a Nickelodeon show that is popular among preschoolers, screaming in a car. The vehicle hurtled into a light pole and burst into flames.
The 10-minute clip, “PAW Patrol Babies Pretend to Die Suicide by Annabelle Hypnotized,” was a nightmarish imitation of an animated series in which a boy and a pack of rescue dogs protect their community from troubles like runaway kittens and rock slides. In the video Isaac watched, some characters died and one walked off a roof after being hypnotized by a likeness of a doll possessed by a demon.
Realize that Google has been pushing itself as a solution for cord-cutters for a while. If you watched the World Series, you will have seen the ubiquitous Google ads for YouTube TV from Google’s partnership with Major League Baseball. You’ll find YouTube on your Internet TV, easily accessed on your family television screen. In case you hadn’t noticed, Google wants inside your house.
Google also launched YouTube Kids as another way to get into your house and tried to make everyone believe that it was safe for your children. I knew this charm offensive was utter and complete crap and a prime example of Google’s values gap, but then I’m supposedly jaded and cynical. You know who is also jaded and cynical?
In 2015, Senator Ben Nelson (D-FL) highlighted the flaws in the YouTube Kids app–remember, this is not the web version of YouTube, this is an app expressly targeted at parents of children “five and under”–FIVE AND UNDER. As Senator Nelson describes them: “toddlers”.
It must be said that challenging Google’s ability to keep bad things off of their service was also at the heart of Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood’s questions he asked of Google and for which Google and the Shills–EFF, Engine Advocacy, R Street–went into litigation overdrive. They never did answer those questions.
The Times reports that a Google flack told them:
[W]hile YouTube Kids may highlight some content, like Halloween videos in October, “it isn’t a curated experience.” Instead, “parents are in the driver’s seat,” he said, pointing to the ability to block channels, set usage timers and disable search results.
Sound familiar? Kind of like you are free to send Google a takedown notice–and rest assured, they will fight any lawsuits from parents with the Communications Decency Act Section 230 defense they are vigorously lobbying to protect by trying to defeat the SESTA bill that would try to stop online pimping.
Parents are also encouraged to report inappropriate videos, which someone at YouTube then manually reviews, he said. He noted that in the past 30 days, “less than .005 percent” of the millions of videos viewed in the app were removed for being inappropriate.
“We strive,” he added, “to make that fraction even lower.”
Ah yes. Report the bad stuff. That should sound familiar, too. Is that before or after your kid’s brain is fried? And notice one thing that the Times let slip by–the switch from hard numbers to percentages. Google does this all the time when they don’t want to acknowledge the scale of the problem by attempting to trivialize criticism by saying that the problem is just a tiny fraction of their business and they are trying so hard to do the right thing. But like Zeno’s Arrow Paradox, they don’t ever quite seem to eliminate the problem.
But it’s a very, very low percentage of the bad stuff–less than 1/2 percent of millions. So let’s say “millions” means at least two million (although it’s probably more). Doing the math, .005 of two million is 10,000. Even if it were 100, are you willing to bet that your child, or your sister, brother or cousin will be in that 10,000? Sounds like a lot.
Senator Lindsay Graham recently told the counsel for Facebook, Google and Twitter that their respective companies had “enriched America.” And then he paused for a second–I was expecting him to say “and America enriched you.” But he didn’t, although I swear he was thinking it.
The question is–will we let these people continue to profit themselves from exploiting children? Will we permit them to profit from the values gap?