YouTube execs allegedly favored engagement over clean content

Facebook may be the scapegoat of privacy violations these days but Google's YouTube is under fire for a different kind of violation: trust. The latest string of harmful content spliced into kids' videos is actually just the latest chapter in an ongoing saga that revolves around questionable content that gets passed YouTube's supposed protections. It turns out, according to anonymous insiders, YouTube execs are well aware of the problem but are supposedly turning a blind eye all for the sake of this thing called "engagement".

engagement is really the bread and butter of many online services, particularly social networking ones. In a nutshell, it refers to the number of views and the time spent on pages or, in this case, videos, as well as any user interaction that takes place during that period. It is pretty much the factor that ultimately determines not just the health of a service but also its revenue and profitability.

Now employees and former executives are citing that word as the reason for what is perceived to be a lackluster response from the company over glaring issues. According to these sources, they have raised concern over the harmful or misleading videos that are making their way into YouTube or, worse, suggesting such content in searches or recommendations. In almost all those cases, these insiders were told not to rock the boat.

It's not like YouTube hasn't made attempts to address those problems, as any YouTube spokesperson would happily point out. It has changed and added dozens of policies, implemented features to fight fake news and misinformation, and has invested heavily in machine learning, Google's favorite secret sauce. But as recent event proved, that just isn't enough.

YouTube has so far escaped the scrutiny and damning exposes that have rocked Facebook's boat but it might be close to finding itself in the same situation. All it takes is one very high-profile misstep and it might see even more of its advertising partners abandon ship.