YouTube burning out of control

The original thumbnail for a video featured Cole and Savannah LaBrant and their daughter photoshopped in front of a roaring fire. Source: YouTube.


More than seven million videos were removed from YouTube between April and June this year for breaching the platform’s community guidelines, says a YouTube report.

However, RMIT senior research fellow Ramon Lobato said unethical content on YouTube was “ungovernable”.

“YouTube is not really a media brand or production system. It’s a distribution ecology that organises massively diverse content,” he said.

“It’s just impossible to expect any uniform conduct in such a wide distribution of content because you’ve got so many producers with different user motivations.” 

Dr Lobato said this led to audiences holding YouTube to a lower standard than they did media brands or producers.

“We don’t have the same expectations from YouTube that we do of a newspaper or a journalist – which have much more established codes of practice … we generally don’t expect [amateur] creators to make promises of objectivity,” he said.

“It just comes down to YouTube’s desire to regulate that space and ensure their creators are not violating [YouTube’s] terms of conduct … but they are not under any obligation to do so.”

“Clickbaiting” and dramatisation are not uncommon on the video streaming platform.

Melbourne-based YouTuber Hayden Pedersen said controversial content was often rewarded with views.

Hayden Pedersen started his photography-focused YouTube channel in February last year and has so far gathered nearly 130,000 subscribers. Source: Hayden Pedersen.

“I think playing it safe is probably the worst thing you can do, but there’s definitely a line between setting a good example and a bad example,” Mr Pedersen said.

He said one of his videos had received some backlash for miscommunication and he understood what it meant to breach the trust of his audience.

In the video, 10 Camera Hacks, he recommended his viewers apply Vaseline onto an external filter before taking photos on their cameras. But many of his viewers assumed he applied the Vaseline to the camera lenses, leading to thousands of his followers damaging their cameras.

Hayden Pedersen’s “10 Camera Hacks” video caused some confusion among viewers. Source: YouTube

Mr Pedersen said while this was not directly unethical, he accepted accountability for causing confusion.

He said the responsibility to act ethically was ultimately the creator’s.

“I personally … try my best to stay away from doing controversial things,” he said.

“I definitely hold myself accountable. If I have made a mistake then I’ll own up to it.”

Mr Pedersen said he kept a distance from YouTubers concerned with “getting fame” rather than making good content.

YouTube personalities Cole and Savannah LaBrant came under fire after being accused of lying about being evacuated from their house during the California bushfires last month.

Neighbours of the couple said there were no evacuations in their area and were saddened to see the deadly fires exploited for social media views.

Mr and Mrs LaBrant have since changed the video’s title from A giant fire made us evacuate our house to We left our house because of fires in California and have removed the photoshopped thumbnail.