While the Internet promotes free thought, free speech and the ability for the world to express itself, companies are attempting to find a balance between welcoming free expression and censoring inappropriate content.
YouTube is trying to find that balance. The popular online video-sharing Web site has 280 million visitors monthly, with members posting 13 hours of video every minute. With the volume of videos posted, shared and viewed on the site, the company says it is cracking down on what kinds of videos are posted.
Specifically, YouTube is putting a tighter grip on content considered sexually suggestive. Videos with sexually suggestive -- but not prohibited -- content will be age-restricted and available only to users who are 18 or older, according to the company.
Company officials say they aren't asking for the respect reserved for nuns, but want users to not abuse the service.
Videos considered sexually suggestive will also be demoted on YouTube's Most Viewed and Top Favorite pages. In testing, YouTube found that, of the thousands of videos on those pages, several each day are automatically demoted for being too graphic. Those are the videoes that get flagged by the community for being inappropriate.
Crossing the Line
YouTube, which is available in 19 regions, is being very clear about what kind of videos users can post, warning against pornographic videos even if the user is in the video. YouTube warns users that it works closely with law enforcement.
"We remain serious about enforcing these rules," a company blog posting read. "Remember, violations of these guidelines could result in removal of your video, and repeated violations will lead to termination of your account."
The crackdown does not end with porn. Users are also being told to avoid posting videos showing animal abuse, drug abuse, or bomb making. Dead bodies and gross videos are also prohibited.
Like other social sites, such as MySpace and Facebook, YouTube also requires that its community avoid stalking, harassment and threats.
Clicking the Red Flag
YouTube has put its community in charge of finding video content that breaks the company's guidelines, including most nudity and videos of people being physically hurt, attacked or humiliated.
YouTube's online community has been encouraged to flag a video that violates the guidelines by clicking on a red flag below each posted video. Once selected, a drop-down window will open, listing different kinds of content that violate the guidelines, and the viewer must choose one of the violations. The video is then flagged, viewed by a member of the YouTube team, and acted on within an hour, according to the company.
"We encourage free speech and defend everyone's right to express unpopular points of view, but we don't permit speech that attacks and demeans groups based on certain characteristics," YouTube said. "We draw the line on content that is intended to incite violence or encourage dangerous and illegal activity."
Content deemed restricted after staff review is viewable only by signed-in users who represent that they are 18 years of age and older and who have clicked through an interstitial page warning, according to the company.
"At YouTube, we are always looking for ways to improve user experience," said Victoria Grand, head of policy at YouTube. "Our decision to clarify what we consider sexually suggestive and to demote sexually suggestive content on certain browse pages is part of that effort."
"We believe that this change, along with the change in the way thumbnails are selected, will benefit users, partners and advertisers by making their YouTube experience more relevant," she added.