YouTube being a popular social media platform, the question of comments regulation is controversial. On the one hand, freedom of speech is essential on the Web, and on the other hand, millions of users who have the right not to be exposed to hate speech comments visit YouTube daily. The issue is problematized as YouTube is a highly estimated website, and contents posted there are likely to be seen and shared by many visitors. The impact of potentially adverse comments on this website is higher than that of less popular ones, which may require more restrictive policies.
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The possibility to comment on YouTube videos in a virtually anonymous way is the essential problem of the policies. One can post mean, harsh, harmful, and offensive reactions without revealing their identity, which creates with users an impression of the total lack of authority. This problem becomes especially challenging when it comes to politically, ethnically, religiously, or ethically loaded global topics, such as Islam. The issue of religion and online media is being studied, and specifically, Ahmed Al-Rawi has addressed the problem of the YouTube users’ reaction to Islam representation. In his book Islam on YouTube: Online Debates, Protests, and Extremism, he claims, “YouTube enhances deliberative democracy and sustains the public sphere because it offers a venue for the powerful and those who are powerless” (Al-Rawi 9). When any user can leave a comment below the video, it can incarnate the idea of democracy. Free unlimited right to comment is a chance for many minorities (religious, ethnic, or social ones) to be empowered in addressing the audience.
Simultaneously, relatively permissive YouTube policies, when it comes to the comments, are a powerful tool for user engagements. For the platform, it is essential to provide ways of active participation, which attracts the users and makes them spend more time on the website. The study of YouTube users shows that commenting is strongly influenced by the motive of social interaction, with the tendency of males to be more actively engaged than females (Khan 240). For the platform, all forms of engagements (likes, comments, sharing, etc.) are more profitable than passive consumption of the content. The website is currently not particularly restrictive, and the goal to engage users may be one of the reasons, while unrestricted comments serve as socialization tools for users. The visitors always might choose whether to read the comments or not, and they may have a better user experience making these decisions without additional external regulations.
To sum up, both the platform and the majority of users are interested in free, non-restrictive policies when it comes to posting reactions. Comments on YouTube videos may serve as a tool of empowerment, socialization, and meaningful interaction for millions of users worldwide. Additional regulation might reduce not only the potentially upsetting comments but also the overall users’ activity on this social media platform. Comments might work not only for the empowerment of previously unheard voices but also for intimidation, aggression, and biased practices. On the other hand, it is to accept that these challenges are inevitable in any communication process, and it might not be profitable for the platform to introduce restrictive regulations of the comments. Thus, it requires additional users’ goodwill and personal responsibility when it comes to the choices related to the YouTube comments.
Al-Rawi, Ahmed. Islam on YouTube: Online Debates, Protests, and Extremism. Springer, 2017.
Khan, Laeeq. “Social Media Engagement: What Motivates User Participation and Consumption on YouTube.” Computers in Human Behavior, vol. 3, 2017, pp. 236-247.