YouTube says it’s being responsible but what it needs to be is accountable

YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki wrote a blog post in which she talked about the platform’s commitment to leaving up controversial videos even when they are offensive. This week, the company posted a new message about the videos they have decided to take down and, YouTube says, it’s taking down many more videos than it ever has before.

The settlement, announced Wednesday, was passed in a 3-2 vote by the commissioners along party lines. The two Democrats voted against it, saying it did not go far enough to punish YouTube.

The settlement requires Google and YouTube to pay $136 million to the FTC and $34 million to New York for allegedly violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. The $136 million penalty is the largest amount the FTC has ever obtained in a COPPA case since Congress enacted the law in 1998, according to the agency.

But after a summer of cascading PR crises, YouTube is keen to convey the sense of a steady hand at the wheel. Today’s blog post is the first of a planned four-part series on “responsibility,” which the company has divided into four (other) R’s. (Coming up after “remove” are “raise,” “reward,” and “reduce.”)

At this stage in its evolution, YouTube in some ways resembles a nation-state. But it lacks one of a state’s most essential features: a legitimate justice system. There is almost no way in which, on a decision-by-decision basis, the hard-working folks at YouTube are truly accountable. And it is for that reason that, no matter how many times YouTube tells us that it has removed a large number of videos from the site, its enforcement decisions will struggle to convey a sense of their legitimacy.

Ahead of the fine, YouTube made some tweaks to its platform, including changing algorithms and ending targeted ads.

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