YouTube is looking for "heroes" to help moderate its content and comments sections, but early feedback has been overwhelmingly negative with users describing it as crowdsourced censorship.
Users who join the Heroes program, which was announced Tuesday, will earn points for adding captions and subtitles to videos, flagging inappropriate videos and answering questions on the site's Help forum.
Accruing points will earn them privileges like joining video chats with others in the Heroes program, exclusive previews of upcoming product launches and the ability to flag abusive videos en masse instead of one at a time.
YouTube Heroes won't have direct moderation powers on their own, though. Anyone who watches a YouTube video can flag it as inappropriate, whether they're a regular user or a 'Hero.' However, YouTube employees ultimately make the final decision on what to do with content marked as inappropriate.
Users on YouTube made their voices heard almost immediately, with an overwhelming number of Dislikes on the announcement video. It currently has over 200,000 Dislikes compared to 3,000 Likes, after nearly 600,000 views.
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A search for YouTube Heroes on the site brings up dozens of reaction videos from creators, calling it "stupid," "censorship," and "YouTube's new snitch program."
So if I have this right, YouTube Heroes is more accurately YouTube Vigilante Mobs?— @ShadowTodd
...Who thought YouTube Heroes was a good idea? Do they not realize that only trolls will take advantage of it?— @TrailerDrake
The "Youtube Heroes" program seems a bit like throwing everyone who wants one, a gun and badge, because you didn't build up a police force. pic.twitter.com/Ga4pS5nW7T— @PhillyD
As someone who has been targeted and mass-flagged by people who dislike me, this shot from the YouTube Heroes vid makes me feel v uneasy. https://t.co/nXKpz3xnsC— @icklenellierose
Critics expressed concern that the program could potentially enable mass harassment campaigns where users can flood the system with reports on videos or users whose content or politics they disagree with.
They also argued that the work users in the Heroes program performed would better be served by paid employees rather than unpaid volunteers.
Dan Speerin, a YouTube creator and vice-president of the Independent Web Series Creators of Canada (IWCC), says the sparse details about how the Heroes program will work follows a history of YouTube introducing new, potentially paradigm-shifting changes to its platform without properly informing its creators and users how it will affect them.
"Is a community neighbourhood watch something that could work? Yeah, but it would take a lot of resources on Google's side to make sure this is rolled out correctly," he told CBC News.
"This is a huge undertaking that you tried to explain in a minute-thirty with a nice little video. We need more info," he said.