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Those in the know reckoned it was going to happen, and happen it did, as YouTube set a record for the most videos it’s removed from the platform in the second quarter of 2020. The increase in videos being taken down is down to the company’s increased reliance on algorithms rather than human moderators. YouTube released it’s Community Guidelines Enforcement report on Tuesday gone and it records the removal of over 11.4 million pieces of content over April, May, and June of this year. Last year over the same months there were around 9 million videos taken down, according to Kim Lyons for The Verge.

“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,” the company wrote in a blog post. “Because responsibility is our top priority, we chose the latter — using technology to help with some of the work normally done by reviewers.”

Google, the parent and overlord of YouTube, gave a message to employees back in March that the new work-from-home policy that was introduced due to the current pandemic was being extended until at least the end of the year. There was a warning that came with the policy change: Google would have to rely on tech over human capacity which could lead to perfectly acceptable content being taken down. The human content moderators at YouTube work in an environment designed to support them, allowing them to work from home could expose them to harm away from a controlled environment. A risk of sensitive data and videos getting outside the platform also informed the decision to lean into tech more.

In the company’s assessment, it was clear it understood that more acceptable videos being removed would increase appeals against the decisions. Staff have been added to manage the appeals process to get the request dealt with swiftly. In the first quarter, YouTube saw 166,000 appeals against video removal, and the number shot up to 325,000 in the second quarter of the year. Reversals of incorrect initial decisions were through the roof as well; over 160,000 appeals were granted a reinstatement in the most recent quarter, whilst only 41,000 were reinstated in the first part of the year. On YouTube’s part, it was noted in a blog post that some of the videos that were reinstated could have come from decisions made in the previous quarter.

In the most sensitive categories of content – child safety and violent extremism – YouTube noted that there were more than three times the amount of content removals than normal in the second quarter of the year. It’s been taken as a minor inconvenience for creators that has been worth the overall results. “We accepted a lower level of accuracy to make sure that we were removing as many pieces of violative content as possible.”

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