YouTube removes more videos than ever during coronavirus pandemic

YouTube has relied heavily on its controversial content-moderation algorithm

Blame it on technology: Because of coronavirus-related staffing reductions, YouTube has been removing more videos than ever.

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Leaning on its controversial algorithm, the platform took down 11.4 million clips from April through June, compared with just under nine million videos in the same period last year.

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The shift in tactics came about after Google -- YouTube's parent company -- told employees in May it would extend its work-from-home policy until the end of the year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

 (REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration)

According to The Verge, Google warned that the measures meant the company would rely more on technology than human reviewers. YouTube's human moderators work in-person from offices -- a controlled environment -- specifically set up for reviews. To use the same process at home would risk a personal data breach.

Additionally, executives cautioned that certain videos that would normally be fine on the platform might be removed in error.

“When reckoning with greatly reduced human review capacity due to COVID-19, we were forced to make a choice between potential under-enforcement or potential over-enforcement,” YouTube wrote in a blog post on Tuesday following the release of the company's Community Guidelines Enforcement report. "Because responsibility is our top priority, we chose the latter — using technology to help with some of the work normally done by reviewers.”

YouTube reported that it saw more than triple the usual number of removals during its second quarter in sensitive policy areas, but that it viewed the inconvenience for content creators as worth it in the end.

"We accepted a lower level of accuracy to make sure that we were removing as many pieces of violative content as possible," they wrote.

In anticipation of an influx of appeals from creators, the company added more staff to its appeals process to quickly handle requests.

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In the first quarter of 2020, the number of appeals for content takedowns jumped from 66,000 to more than 325,000.

As a result, YouTube reinstated more than 160,000 videos in the second quarter compared with just 41,000 in the first quarter -- though some of those may have been add-ons from an earlier period.