The YouTube Heroes program is an attempt to crowd-source the moderation of YouTube content. Hundreds of hours of video gets uploaded to YouTube every minute, and it is unreasonable to expect YouTube’s paid moderators to review it all.
The YouTube Heroes program is available to anyone 18 and over with a YouTube account. Anyone can register to join the program (currently in closed beta, so you may need to wait to be accepted). Heroes are volunteers that are compensated by earning points, which can then unlock certain perks, such as the ability to mass flag videos.
Users in the program can accrue points by:
- Answering questions on the Google Product Forums.
- Submitting subtitles to videos.
- Flagging videos.
With just the above description to go on, it is very easy to see why the YouTube community responded in such a negative way. With a little bit of digging, it is easy to see that the negativity was an overreaction as many of these things were already in place for many years.
YouTube Heroes is simply a rebrand of the original Trusted Flagger programme that YouTube launched in 2012. Many of these Trusted Flaggers currently have a flagging accuracy of 90% and have been contributing for several years. There have been many misconceptions about the YouTube Heroes program, and the mass flagging ability has been available to trusted users for a long time now. Volunteers are unable to directly remove video content, but their flags are prioritised and seen sooner by YouTube staff than those submitted by the public.
Telling YouTubers that people can earn points by flagging their videos created an impressive amount of negative press for the program and many responded accordingly.
Within 72 hours, the original video was watched over a million times and was disliked over 411,000 times. Due to the response, YouTube also disabled comments on this video and to date, the video has been seen 3.4 million times, with over 900,000 dislikes. This is over a quarter of all viewers disliking the video. As YouTube disabled comments on the video, creators took to their own channels or other mediums to express their frustrations, with people complaining about the gamification of something that is so open to potential abuse.
Details of YouTube Heroes from current participants:
Thanks to a very informative thread on Reddit, we have a lot of information about the program and answers to some of the most commonly asked questions.
What’s preventing somebody from flagging things they disagree with?
Nobody. The most flagged video is from Justin Bieber, people say it is harmful for children, scam or gore, and may find it highly offensive, but YouTube reviews videos before they decide whether to take it down or not, no amount of flagging a video will take a video down if it doesn't violate the community guidelines.
Why would YouTube allow mass flagging?
Mass flagging is needed because there are spambots
What's the typical breakdown of your flag types?
I would attribute 95% of my flags against spam. 4% pornography and animal abuse and the remaining 1% everything else. The remaining 1% includes every policy area I didn't mention as I've flagged everything from terrorist propaganda to user PII (Personally Identifiable Information) exposure but this isn't the kind of content I actively look for.
I would say the vast majority of my flags would be for spam just because of the amount of spam there is. That would probably be followed by scams, one particular group of websites all in the same scam get instructed to use YouTube and to make a video everyday for a certain amount of days to build trust so there is quite a lot of that alone from that 1 scam.
Was there any consideration of not implementing Youtube Heroes after the promo video for it received so many dislikes?
Considering the programme existed under the "Trusted Flagger" system, it's been a thing since 2012. "Not implementing" it (if referring to it being new/recent) would simply be not renaming and advertising it.
A 'hero' with certain political or social prejudices could easily abuse the system by flagging content that offends those prejudices and send them up the line. What sort of checks and balances are in place to prevent this situation from evolving?
All flags, whether they are coming from a normal user reporting the video from the video's watch page or a YouTube hero are manually reviewed by YouTube's policy team and only YouTube can decide what action to take on the video (leave it up, take it down, age restriction). YouTube's policy team is made up of a few hundred employees who's sole purpose is to review flags made by Heroes / Regular users and improve YouTube's flagging/abuse policies.
That way, YouTube Heroes have zero influence on whether action is taken on a video they may not agree with, taking any personal emotions out of the equation.
What is the criteria for a video to be demonetised?
We as volunteers do not handle demonetization, and thus we do not have any specific set of information regarding demonetization. Videos that are age restricted lose the ability to be monetized but that is usually because the video creator is being given the benefit of the doubt and the alternative may have been removal.
I hope this gives a bit more insight into the YouTube Heroes program, and the response to the rebrand doesn’t stop YouTube from innovating and bringing new tools for users.
Do you believe everything that the current Heroes said in the Q&A thread? What are your views on the Heroes program? Is YouTube hiding anything? Do you still have worries?