There’s scarcely a soul among us who hasn’t watched a video on YouTube. But have you ever stuck around long enough to read the comments section? It’s like a leper colony for the mind, a vindication for misanthropes everywhere. And after many years of being at the forefront of rudeness, racism, and generalized dumbassery, the YouTube comment section is getting a clean up.
Whereas the old system worked by placing the latest comments at the top nearest the video, regardless of their relevance or lack of redeeming content. The new system will employ a series of algorithms to determine what each viewer will find most relevant. This includes comments from your friends, from the video creator, and from “popular personalities” (i.e. celebs of one type or another).
But it doesn’t stop there. Currently, since comments are displayed as they come in, making the act of following a conversation difficult at best. But from now on, the site will feature threaded conversations, which is consistent with Google policy, the site’s now owners. As for private conversations, the new platform will be powered by Google+, allowing users the option of deciding who they want their posts and videos to be visible to.
Additionally, there will be a sort of cross-posting between YouTube and Google+. If you post a YouTube video on Google+ and some one comments on it there, the comment will show up on the video over at YouTube, too. Alternatively, they could choose to have their comment only show up on YouTube, or only show up on Google+. There’s a lot more control.
But perhaps most importantly of all, there are new filters that will be in place. As it stands, YouTube commenters enjoy total anonymity, which allows them to post racist, sexist, homophobic and vitriolic comments without fear. And while content creators can choose to allow all or no comments, or manually approve each comment, this is completely impractical for videos that garner millions of views a week.
But now, YouTube is introducing filters that will make it easier. The new filters basically allow content creators to not only be able to assign people to an Approved list or a Blocked list (which will auto-approve or auto-reject comments, respectively), they will be able to add keywords to a Blacklist. This will flag comments that contain those words and send them into a special list which can be reviewed and approved/rejected later.
The threaded comments feature and began to be put into effect a little over a week ago. Filters were made available at the same time for channel pages only, but in the months to come they’ll become available for every individual video, giving content creators and commenters more control over the conversations they participate in. Basically, it will still be YouTube, but with some Facebook-like privacy and content filters.
And while many might deplore these new rules as an example of heavy handed “internet censorship”, there are many more who believe this change is overdue in coming. And given that the control rests with the users, who have the ability to share or be private, and to filter specific kinds of content, the basic spirit of a democratic, open forum remains.