YouTube is famously terrible at announcing site changes, and the upcoming rollout of its “community” features are thus far no different. Yesterday it created a programme to enlist users as moderators, and it’s bound to be a goddamn mess.
The video—posted to the YouTube Help channel and entitled “Getting Started with YouTube Heroes”—gives a high-level explanation of what moderation will look like. Users who apply for and are accepted into the programme will gain points for things like writing subtitles, reporting content that violates the community guidelines, or “shar[ing] knowledge with others.” Points count towards a vague, gamified levelling system.
At “level 3,” moderators (don’t make me use the word “heroes” in this context, YouTube) are able to flag videos en masse and moderate community content. Higher levels bring more perks, like beta testing new features and being able to “contact YouTube staff directly,” something even the biggest creators on the platform often have difficulty doing.
It’s been clear for some time now that the platform has been unable to manage moderation on its own—whether that’s mangled copyright system, infuriatingly vague community guidelines, or the plethora of porn on the site. In short, YouTube appear to be passing the buck on to users.
User moderation isn’t a catastrophe in itself—and in fact might free up employees of the platform to improve site features. But the infighting and favouritism endemic to user moderation on sites like Reddit and Wikipedia would be all the more fraught on YouTube because unlike those volunteer sites, many of YouTube’s creators make their living on the site. In any case, new site features on the platform have been met with hostility in the past, and a change this massive is likely to cause similar confusion and backlash.
It’s not clear what sort of oversight the platform will provide over the Heroes programme, but if there are ways it can be exploited, users are sure to find them. We’ve reached out to YouTube for details and will update if we hear back.