YouTube if you want to

by Stephen Tall on October 19, 2006

I currently have a head-full of cold, so maybe I’m missing something from this BBC report:

“Posting footage of assaults and violent acts on websites such as YouTube is a serious issue which MPs should discuss, Commons leader Jack Straw has said.”

Mr Straw was responding to the concerns of Hartlepool MP, Labour’s Iain Wright, who has highlighted an odd and unpleasant video posted on YouTube by ‘taffyturner’ entitled Milton Road Fight Club.

It shows a man being chased down the street by another, before being kicked full in the face. It’s unclear what the relationship between the two men is, or quite what is the role of the person filming the scene. (If you wish, you can watch it here, but be aware there is swearing and violence.)

The BBC quotes Mr Straw:

“We shall be discussing the Violent Crimes Reduction Bill during the next week. I hope very much [Mr Wright] raises the issue on an appropriate amendment on that Bill. This is a really serious issue about how these kind of videos should better be controlled.”

It seems that Mr Straw’s knee has well and truly jerked. Two points:

1. Everyone who uploads a video to YouTube has to register an account and agree to certain Terms and Conditions. These are listed here, and 5 (c) is pretty clear:

… you further agree that you will not: … (iii) submit material that is unlawful, obscene, defamatory, libelous, threatening, pornographic, harassing, hateful, racially or ethnically offensive, or encourages conduct that would be considered a criminal offense, give rise to civil liability, violate any law, or is otherwise inappropriate;

Strikes me that ‘taffyturner’ has breached this condition, and will shortly be hearing from YouTube.

2. Anyone who downloads a video from YouTube has the option to flag a video as offensive, as I have just done to Milton Road Fight Club, citing ‘graphic violence’. YouTube promises to “review each and every submission within 24-48 hours”.

These two conditions guarantee that not only does YouTube ensure every account-holder is responsible for their own actions, but also ensures its consumers can hold to account those who appear to break the rules.

Which is why YouTube is a self-regulating community which thrives.

Not only is this a good thing in itself, it is also the only practical way in which the company could operate, since to pre-censor every video would be an impossible (and wholly undesirable) task.

It’s sadly typical of Labour that they cannot believe self-regulation works, and feel they must instead interpose government laws instead.

In any case – even if neither of these conditions held true, and YouTube was an unresponsive and irresponsible company – I’m not convinced what government regulation/censorship would achieve.

After all, if a criminal offence has been committed, surely it having been caught on camera and broadcast is more likely to lead to the capture of the culprits of any offence committed? Otherwise, why does our Government – and indeed the wider public – fetishise CCTV?