Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube has shared three principles that should guide discussions about the regulation of online speech. Let’s have a look at how Free Speech and Corporate Responsibility can coexist online.
As the CEO of YouTube, Susan grapples everyday with issues pertaining to free expression and responsibility. Unprecedented challenges are being faced by companies, civil society and governments. All of them are sorting through complicated questions, determining where to draw the lines on speech in the 21st century. Regulatory proposals are being introduced by policy makers around the world; some argue that too much content is left up on platforms, while others say too much is taken down. At YouTube, the team is working to protect their community while enabling new and diverse voices to break through. The following are Susan’s three principles that should guide discussions about the regulation of online speech.
“First, the open internet has transformed society in incredible ways. The Group of Seven leaders reaffirmed the fundamental value of openness in a recent statement. YouTube makes information available to anyone with an internet connection. People around the world come to YouTube to find information, to learn and to build community. But creating a space that’s open to everyone means that bad actors will sometimes cross the line.“
YouTube has always had community guidelines that set the rules. Content that could cause real harm, such as violent extremism, copyright infringement and dangerous pranks are removed. While some of YouTube’s decisions may be controversial, its policies are applied equally, regardless of who posts the content. Simultaneously YouTube also embraces the inherent complexity and messiness of the internet.
The second principle: “Democratic governments must provide companies with clear guidelines about illegal speech. That helps us remove illegal content more quickly and efficiently. These laws must be grounded in international norms as officials balance the right to information with the risk of harm. The rules governing the internet are regularly updated, from copyright to elections and political campaigning. YouTube is willing to work with governments to address these and other issues.“
Since everything about content moderation won’t be looked upon by the governments, that’s why Susan strongly believes in the third principle: “Companies should have flexibility to develop responsible practices to handle legal but potentially harmful speech. Some policy makers are debating what legal speech should be allowed on platforms, but such prescriptive rules could have serious consequences.“
While it is true that the stakes are high for updating YouTube’s approach to online speech. Overregulation of legal content would have a chilling effect on speech and could rob YouTube of their next big idea or great discovery. Susan is confident in believing that there is a way forward that both keeps YouTube’s community safe and even allows for free expression.