Those elusive and pesky algorithms are at it again. At least that’s the latest myth the leadership at the streaming online video giant cherishes, and in their best impersonation of an anonymous internet bully mercilessly pontificating and citing fallacious sources sparked by NBA role players to substantiate the ubiquitous claim of a flat earth or the modern iteration of DB Cooper working as a cyborg Tibetan double agent, the horrific trend of contrived Orwellian revisionism persists.
The neurotic genius of Lewis Carroll could have possibly articulated a mental time jump to the bizarre articulated electronic platform of YouTube in experiencing the sensory deprivation and alluring absence of truth, as the inspiration for his most famous work and nexus for innumerable futuristic metaphors. This idea may not be unfeasible, as Wired reports that the destination spot for countless videos teaching the younger generations how to not so subtly dismember themselves bit-by-bit with improvised explosive devices housed inside exotic produce, or hypnotize the opposite sex with homemade tonics, is currently battling a self-inflicted software conundrum.
Similar to the controversy brewed by recklessly and deviously programmed bots over at the world’s largest social network, the YouTube version of “trending news” is apparently receiving an overdue Beverly Hills grade cosmetic procedure, in combating the proliferation of misinformation. However, this is where any parallels come to an abrupt halt between the two heavyweights, as the YouTube community is dominated by careless and not deliberate automation, with all the growing pains and nightmares of artificial intelligence encountering anomalies in causing infinite loops and limited functionability.
The current interface offered by the company, includes a “trending” section populated by the site’s most popular videos, and a “recommended” heading, which displays a list of streaming titles and channels customized to each unique user and based on information and history gathered from a device or a computer. Add to the volatile mix the irreparable nebulous undercurrent of the infamous “Terms and Conditions”, along with the incomprehensible volume of 450 hours of content being uploaded to the site every hour, and the formula is calibrated for disaster, with an emphasis on the extremes. It is unsettling to ponder who is actually fitting the bill for server space in storing the petabytes of data flooding the memory banks every 24 hours. This calls for a thorough reading of the aforementioned “Terms and Conditions” delivered in the complete discombobulated and smooth aged Kentucky Bourbon intoxicating gibberish of Bobcat Goldthwait in breaking the code. It can’t getting worse than the incessant legalism of an excuse for a feasible clarification.
Essentially, YouTube has programmed itself into a corner with faulty algorithms and it is entirely the corporation’s fault, and not the product of rogue code that has somehow taken on the form of an ominous HAL, with designs on eliminating humanity. For example, subscribers with a search history of conspiracy theories, will see legions of urban legend videos recommended to them on their front page, or individuals viewing conservative or liberal content find see no other viewpoint represented, unless a specific search is implemented. Earlier this year the online entity adopted target policy to police and discourage firearm content. (That explains the prevalent list of ice cream zombie videos customized for my viewing pleasure.) The company bots responsible for content in the”recommended” section are coded for overkill, and finally the company is investing capital to alleviate the issue, and promote balance. However, what exactly does $25 million worth of a solution buy in a venture valued at $30 billion?
What exacerbates the automated narrow selection of viewable material controversy, is the original directive spawned by YouTube in aggressively maintaining a user base, by flooding the launch page with relatable subject to the extent of getting subscribers “hooked” to the platform. Within the current chaotic climate dominated by the call for fake news reform and an emphasis on transparency in the handling of personal data, how will the company manage to execute a full maneuver without alienating a robust base audience? The ineptitude of F***book in avoiding a massive user exodus in the US and Europe, while stumbling over reprehensible ethical standards and falling into a boiling legal cauldron, has set a very unsavory precedent for the potential fate of tech giant which is unable to maintain basic housekeeping standards.
Skeptics have already squarely tagged YouTube with multiple red flags, with the foremost concern surrounding the reality that human beings tend to assign instant credibility to the video, regardless of any validity contained in the message. As the corporation has now publicly admitted that the “recommended” section is virtual train wreck of code in pointing users to furthest depths of the rabbit hole from mainstream news or reasonable perspective, it is imperative that $25 million or hundreds of millions clean up the nightmarish technocratic mess, or face the inevitable.
Sure, the duck tape instantaneous solution of creating partnerships with legitimate news sources is a step in the right direction and a solid PR move, but with the sheer magnitude of content being uploaded every hour, this is not an issue that can merely be solved with a tweak and a dream. An easier solution would simply entail rebranding the platform as a hodgepodge of innumerable video medium, where users enter at their own risk.
And “Yes”, there does exist a channel featuring haunted corn cobs, who choose to identify as asexual independents in the aftermath of the last election cycle and are terrified of butter, in the hopes of never having to attend a summer barbecue or see the inside of a movie theater.
Read the Wired story here.