YouTube's Porn & Conspiracy Problems: Fix Your Recommendation Engine

YouTube was under fire again in early March, when a video blogger named Matt Watson detailed how pedophiles can enter a “wormhole” of YouTube videos to see “footage of children in sexually suggestive positions” according to They can then jump from video to video, helped by YouTube’s recommendation engine, and fill them with lewd comments. Oh yeah, there's an old NetLingo word for that: flame bait.

In response, brands such as Disney, AT&T, and Epic Games pulled their ads from YouTube, and the company responded by banning more than 400 accounts. Unfortunately, it’s not the first time that Google-owned YouTube has had this kind of child-safety flare-up. In 2017 alone, disturbing knockoffs appeared on the YouTube Kids platform that depicted Disney and Marvel characters in troubling ways; then sexually explicit comments appeared under videos of kids’ gymnastics. “In response to those scandals, CEO Susan Wojcicki overhauled YouTube’s safety guidelines.” Yet two years later, the same problems keep cropping up.

It’s not just the comments that are problematic for YouTube, said The New York Times. The platform has been reckoning with the vast troves of disinformation and extreme content it harbors, such as conspiracy videos and hoaxes that are popular with millions of viewers. Here, again, the recommendation engine is part of the problem: It sends viewers of misinformation to similar videos with more misinformation.

Conspiracy theories and viral hoaxes top the list” of recommendations for viewers of many popular channels. Young people repeatedly battered by these recommendations often start to reject mainstream sources. To fix this, YouTube needs to recognize how deep these problems run and realize that any successful effort may look less like a simple algorithm tweak, and more like deprogramming a generation.

- Erin Jansen, Internet Specialist, Social Psychologist, Founder of
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Big Tech Scruples: Why Did Facebook Executives have to be so Ruthless?

Facebook has weathered its share of scandals lately but this item didn't get much coverage and it really got my goat. At the end of 2018, some 250 pages of internal Facebook emails were released by British lawmakers revealing that executives were "ruthless and unsparing" in their ambition to collect more data from users according to The New York Times. The emails, which spanned 2012 to 2015, a time of tremendous expansion for Facebook, show executives including Mark Zuckerberg, discussing ways to undermine their competitors, obscure their collection of user data, and above all, ensure that their products kept growing.

Most of that sounds well and good (not the obscuring of data part) as our current definition of what a business should do, there's even a NetLingo word for it: moneytizing eyeballs.

Until you get to the part that Facebook engineered a way to collect Android users' data without having to alert them, and Zuckerberg personally approved cutting off a video-sharing app's access to Facebook because it was a competitor to Instagram (which they own). The app, called Vine and loved by many, was eventually forced to shut down. C'mon executives of Big Tech, speak out! Especially you spiritual ones... there's more than enough to go around.

- Erin Jansen, Internet Specialist, Social Psychologist, Founder of
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Hey Amazon :( If Coastal Elite Turn On You, Go Where You're Needed

Amazon walked away from New York City due to the public outcry over the $2 billion tax incentives. Amazon, with the rest of Big Tech, is facing unprecedented scrutiny from the newly emboldened Left, according to Progressive Democrats have hammered Amazon over its market power and treatment of warehouse and delivery workers.

In fact, the company has become a potent symbol of American inequality but they are moving fast to head off attacks, and sometimes by co-opting the liberal agenda, like by raising its minimum wage to $15 an hour.

But Amazon is popular in Virginia and that doesn't surprise the people in Roanoke, VA according to the Times. Polling shows that more than 90 percent of people in southern Virginia support the company. Why? For the idea of the jobs! Guess what, the red states lost a lot of work due to Big Tech. There's even a NetLingo word for it: You've been Amazonned.

Southern Virginians get why Amazon didn’t locate there: They don’t have 25,000 highly skilled people ready to go to work immediately, but they do have 75,000 college students they'd rather not watch leave. So, Amazon if the coastal elite think you and the other Big Tech companies are wrecking their cities, set up shop in places that will benefit America! I agree with their sentiment, it's tiring to watch politicians in New York City and Seattle gripe about tech companies overrunning their cities, it's like watching two rich people argue.

- Erin Jansen, Internet Specialist, Social Psychologist, Founder of
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