Posts about youtube

Advice to media & Muslims: Don’t feed the trolls

The jerk who made that video, the one that supposedly incited rioting and murder in Egypt and Libya, is the very definition of a troll: He made it to elicit the reaction he was sure he’d cause. That is what trolls do.

Those who reacted are trolls, too, but of course worse: murderers. They exploited just any excuse — an obviously cheesy, fake movie seen by no one — to stir up their band of fanatics into visible outrage and violence.

The media who cover these trolls — the trolls who make the bait and the trolls who look for bait — are dupes themselves, just continuing a cycle that will only rev faster and faster until someone says: Stop. Stop feeding the trolls.

We’ve learned that online, haven’t we all? Oh, I sometimes have to relearn the lesson when one of my trolls dangles some shiny object in front of me and I snap. I just pulled the food bowl away from one troll: no reaction for you. I was just delighted to see another troll get his comeuppance and said so. But as a rule, a good rule, one should never, never feed the trolls. They only spit it up on you. Starving them of the attention they crave and the upset they hunger for and feed on is the only answer.

But still, there’s no controlling the trolls. Some still think the trolls can be stopped. An Australian newspaper just started a #stopthetrolls campaign to bring the ride miscreants to justice and silence. Good luck with that. In a sense, the rioters and murderers in Libya and Egypt and now elsewhere are demanding that someone stop the trolls they are choosing to get heated up about.

But, of course, there is no stopping them. Neither do I want to stop them. I believe in protecting free speech, which must include protecting even bad, even noxious speech.

Zeynep Tufecki, a brilliant observer of matters media, digital, and social, cautioned on Twitter that we must understand a key difference in attitudes toward speech here and elsewhere in the world: “Forget Middle East, in most of Europe you could not convince most people that *all* speech should be protected. That is uniquely American,” she tweeted yesterday. “In most places, including Europe, ‘hate-speech’ –however defined — is regulated, prosecuted. Hence, folks assume not prosecuted=promoted…. US free speech absolutism already hard to comprehend for many. Add citizen media to mix, it gets messy. Then, killers exploit this vagueness.” Excellent points and important perspective for the current situation.

But the internet is built to American specifications of speech: anyone can speak and it is difficult unto impossible to stop them as bits and the messages they carry are designed to go around blocks and detours. The internet *is* the First Amendment. We can argue about whether that is the right architecture — as an American free-speech absolutist, I think it is — but that wouldn’t change the fact that we are going to hear more and more speech, including brilliance and including bile. There’s no stopping it. Indeed, I want to protect it.

So we’d best understand how to adapt society to that new reality. We’ve done it before. This from Public Parts about the introduction of the printing press:

“This cultural outlook of openness in printing’s early days could just as easily have gone the other way. The explosion of the printed word — and the lack of control over it — disturbed the elite, including Catholic theologian Desiderius Erasmus. ‘To what corner of the world do they not fly, these swarms of new books?’ he complained. ‘[T]he very multitude of them is hurtful to scholarship, because it creates a glut and even in good things satiety is most harmful.’ He feared, according to [Elizabeth] Eisenstein, that the minds of men ‘flighty and curious of anything new’ would be distracted from ‘the study of old authors.’ After the English Civil War, Richard Atkyns, an early writer on printing, longed for the days of royal control over presses. Printers, he lamented, had ‘filled the Kingdom with so many Books, and the Brains of the People with so many contrary Opinions, that these Paper-pellets become as dangerous as Bullets.’ In the early modern period a few ‘humanists called for a system of censorship, never implemented, to guarantee that only high-quality editions be printed,’ Ann Blair writes in Agent of Change. Often today I hear publishers, editors, and academics long for a way to ensure standards of quality on the internet, as if it were a medium like theirs rather than a public space for open conversation.”

There is a desire to *control* conversation, to *civilize* it, to *cleanse* it. God help us, I don’t want anyone cleaning my mouth out. I don’t want anyone telling me what I cannot say. I don’t want a society that silences anything that could offend anyone.

I understand why Google decided to take down That Video from YouTube in Libya and Egypt, given how it is being used, while also arguing that it meets YouTube’s standards and will stay up elsewhere. But YouTube thus gives itself a dangerous precedent as some will expect it to cleanse other bad speech from its platform. YouTube is in a better position in Afghanistan, where the government blocked all of YouTube but then it’s the government that is acting as the censor and it’s the government that must be answerable to its people.

But in any case, blocking this video is no more the answer than rioting and murdering over it. All this will only egg on the trolls to make more bad speech and in turn egg on trolls on the other side to exploit it.

The only answer is to learn how to deal with speech and to value it sufficiently to acknowledge that good speech will come with bad. What we have to learn is how to ignore the bad. We have to learn that every sane and civilized human knows that bad speech is bad. We don’t need nannies to tell us that. We don’t need censors to protect it from us. We certainly don’t need fanatics to fight us for it. We need the respect of our fellow man to believe that we as civilized men and women know the difference. We need to grow up.

The responsibility of knowledge in news

I tweeted a few minutes that I wish YouTube itself would be curating and featuring video from Iran because only it is in the position to know whether the video came from Iran and whether it is a duplicate. I said that YouTube has a responsibility in the news ecosystem. Andy Scheurer questioned that: responsibility? Good question. Isn’t YouTube just a host? Can’t it be agnostic as to interests? No, I don’t think so, because YouTube has unique knowledge it can add to inform the discussion (e.g., this video isn’t from Iran or it’s a year old or this video is unique from Iran today) and to not add that knowledge becomes irresponsible, no? YouTube can’t just make the information transparent so we can figure it out because it also has a moral responsibility to protect the identity of those who are putting themselves in danger by uploading the videos to inform the world. That means they are the only ones who can verify at least some information about the videos for our benefit. So shouldn’t they?


The great cultural anomaly of the age is Jackie Mason’s popularity on YouTube. YouTube’s Steve Grove asks him questions and we see the problems with the asynch interview (questions asked separately answers given). Mason goes on about the sick, sadistic, lunatic people on YouTube and we don’t see Grove react at all. Mason also says he wouldn’t walk on the same street with Barack Obama.

Arab PR

Queen Rania of Jordan — a more appealing spokeswoman one cannot imagine — goes onto YouTube to say that she wants people to understand the real Arab world and so she invites people to tell her the stereotypes they see and she will respond to them.

Here’s a response asking about homosexuality in the Arab world:

This man challenges the Queen with a news report from the Telegraph about a Saudi man who killed his daughter when he found her having a conversation in Facebook. He says that the stereotype that much of what comes out of Arab culture “is not only backward but brutal.” But he says it nicely.

The news will find us

Brian Stelter has an excellent piece in today’s New York Times about young people and their different relationship with media in this campaign. As Pew has pointed out, young people especially (and people of all ages) act as conduits as much as consumers. And they expect to watch video themselves. This is also a clear example of how the peer replaces the editor. My favorite line:

Ms. Buckingham recalled conducting a focus group where one of her subjects, a college student, said, “If the news is that important, it will find me.”

You have to drop that bottle in the ocean, or no one will find it.

And this:

Rather than treating video-sharing Web sites as traditional news sources, young people use them as tools and act as editors themselves.

“We’re talking about a generation that doesn’t just like seeing the video in addition to the story — they expect it,” said Danny Shea, 23, the associate media editor for The Huffington Post ( “And they’ll find it elsewhere if you don’t give it to them, and then that’s the link that’s going to be passed around over e-mail and instant message.”

Now compare and contrast this with Lee Gomes in the Wall Street Journal, who can write clueful and clueless columns on the internet. His latest should be dropped in the latter bucket. He’s just not sure what to make of this internet thing and its impact on politics. Could be bad, could be good. Hmmmm. Web videos, especially on YouTube, are a good place to start. They have been called the death of the TV sound bite, for the way voters can experience lengthy realities without the filters of a news show constrained by time limits and commercials. The 37 minutes of Sen. Obama’s race speech quickly became one of the most widely downloaded.

Less clear is whether YouTube will be just as bad, or worse, at blurring the line between a fair point and a cheap shot than newspapers or TV ever were.

That’s he problem with columns: You have to write them even when you don’t have anything to say. I’ll wait for his next one.

:Later: TechPresident reports the ratings for the Obama race speech: More than 4million views for the speech or excerpts on YouTube.

Davos08: The Davos Question & answers

Here’s my answer to the Davos question. In a word: transparency.

The question was: What one thing do you think that companies, countries, or individual must do to make the world a better place in 2008. A few hundred left responses before Davos. More than a hundred responded at Davos. Altogether, these videos have been watched more than 350,000 times.

Yes, the question and many of the answers are save, even rather insipid. But this was a symbolic act that had an impact at Davos. This is what I wanted to do last year when the Davos Conversation was started (disclosure: I worked on that). I wanted to bring the faces and voices and views of the world into Davos and have the powerful there respond. And so it’s a start.

Google cofounder Sergey Brin is asked what Google can do to help voting. His answer: YouTube.

Rick Warren, pastor at a megachurch and author of megabooks, uses his moment to promote “the faith sector” to equal status to the public and private sectors of society. “The Christian church is bigger than China. It’s bigger than India. It’s bigger than China and India together,” he brags.

Bono tells people not to let politicians slip on the Millennium Goals:

Yo Yo Ma tells us to work hard and be loving:

Hamid Karzai just tells us to be nice:

Here’s my video of Henry Kissinger:

Here’s the summary of the outsiders’ comments shown to the opening of Davos:

Davos08: Henry the YouTuber

So I was in the YouTube Davos Conversation area when they brought Henry Kissinger over to record a video. Turns out it was the second time he’d recorded it; the first time, the camera didn’t work and he grumbled about technology. Turns out it didn’t ‘work the second time. But I was there recording the scene with my Reuters mojo camera (a Nokia N82 phone with a very high quality camera). So small technology saves the day. Here’s Henry the K, YouTuber:

Join the Davos Conversation

The world’s leaders are asking you to tell them what to do. This YouTube video from the World Economic Forum at Davos asks, “What one thing do you think that countries, companies or individuals must do to make the world a better place in 2008?” Starting now, they’re also asking you to vote on the responses you like best (as of now, there are 60 to see). They will be shown at the annual meeting of machers in the Swiss Alps, starting January 23, and the machers are suppose to respond back at a YouTube booth at the conference.

I was lucky enough to go to Davos last year and I’m lucky enough to go again this year. How can you pass down the chance to hobnob with everyone from Bill Gates to Gordon Brown to Chad Hurley to Mark Zuckerberg with more political, business, and media machers mixed in? I was also privileged to work on the Davos Conversation project last year and this video effort is an extension of that. The conversation expands.

When the folks at WEF first talked with me about extending the conversation that occurs at their annual meeting outside the cloistered confines of the charming dorf of Davos, they admitted some nervousness. These echelons aren’t accustomed to conversation. But the WEF folks were smart enough to want to teach the powerful there that the internet age is all about conversation. So it started with steps. The Davos Conversation page (disclosure: built by Daylife) included blog posts from bloggers there as well as Technorati links to others from elsewhere who joined the conversation, plus some videos we took. (Here are Arianna Huffington and me at the end; here‘s my video of YouTube’s Chad Hurley announcing his revenue sharing program.) I wandered around with my little camera shooting video and not even knowing that that itself was breaking a few rules. But the castles didn’t tumble and so the conversation continues and grows.

That’s why Davos is involving YouTube and the world in trying to extend this via video. There’ll be a booth on the main floor of the conference center where the powerful can record a message to the world — “Hey, YouTubers” — or a response to your messages. Blogging continues with some new guests (Michael Arrington of TechCrunch is joining this year and I know they were trying to get a few more unexpected participants). And Reuters is extending its mojo (mobile journalism) project by equipping some of the participants with their kits (I weaseled my way into this one!) to chronicle the meeting in text, photos, audio, and video.

To join this conversation, just use the Davos08 tag wherever you put up blog posts or videos or respond to the Davos invitation here.

Here’s one reply to the Davos question, arguing for technology to spread education:

This reply takes only eight second and makes sense:

This gumchewer says the single thing that would improve the world would be universal internet access: free wi-fi for all:

Here’s a guy who wants to use YouTube to actually spread knowledge:

This Canadian wants product labels revealing the impact of the products we buy on the world:

Here’s a sermon on the mount of YouTube: