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YouTube considers changing comment system


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A Q&A session during the Google I/O conference indicates that Google are paying attention to comments posted on YouTube, and could be contemplating changing the commenting system to crack down.

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Misanthropy doesn't seem too hard to embrace when people write this.

A quick look at a popular video on YouTube is enough to leave you doubting the future generation. With good reason, it has to be said. In about a minute's searching there is a good chance you'll find something that is racist, homophobic, or generally disruptive and offensive. It is the way the site works. Thanks to its design, and the fact you're hidden behind a username, you can go around intentionally posting nonsense on videos with little chance of being punished.

It is a prospect that leaves internet trolls salivating at the opportunities. They can attack anyone for any reason they want from behind a veil of anonymity. While the same can be said about other sites, there are few as easily abused as YouTube. As the world's most popular destination for sharing videos, and one of the most popular websites on the internet, it's an open forum for douchebaggery. Trolls will be able to find videos and users to attack for the rest of time, and that's what they rely on. Their time might be limited though, for it seems there are plans in the works to cut down on these comments.

Wired Magazine reports that we could be seeing changes in the future to cut down on comments such as the example above. The above example was harvested from a music video, and one word in particular was censored due to its highly offensive nature. During Google's I/O presentation there was a Q&A event with YouTube's developers. A member in the audience questioned the developers about what could be done with comments. Dror Shimshowitz, one of YouTube's 'heads of product', observed that the comments section is the "Wild West of video", and comments can be turned off.

Shimshowitz also took the time to explain that Google is not fond of disabling comments, for it is said to be 'cutting off the community'. For this reason the site is focusing upon fixing its comments system and weeding out the people intent on ruining it. The damage might already be done. With the site having been around since 2005 it has had long enough for the trolls to become well rooted in the YouTube community. Unfortunately for everyone interested in uploading video content to YouTube, Shimshowitz declined to comment further on the changes that the company intends to make. A Google spokesman also stepped in, stating that the company did not have any intent to provide further commentary.

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There are, thankfully, some alternatives to putting up with the comments you'll view on the internet. Herp Derp Comments comes highly recommended, for it preserves the meaning of the majority of the comments you'll read on popular videos. There's also Comment Snob, if you do want to read some comments when they apply to a specific set of rules you determine. Of course, there are also blogs for showcasing the best of human stupidity online. If you decide to check out the blog, it might be worth noting that the comments may not always be safe for work. The nature of YouTube means that some nasty things can be said with almost complete protection from your actions.

YouTube has tried in the past to curb its problems with comments on videos, but it does not seem to be sufficient. If an account has a long enough history of making offensive comments on videos it does seem that the site takes action. Having observed at least one of these accounts in the past they all were shut down after some time. Whether this is trolls getting bored, trying to remove themselves from these online personas, or Google taking control of the matter is not entirely clear.

Two possibilities have appeared in the past: associating YouTube accounts with Google+ accounts (some Google+ accounts already contribute to YouTube with their profile names), or using comments via Facebook. Neither method is perfect, but a site where the trolls can post virtually anything they want, offend who they want, and disappear again is not much better.

The site does need to do something drastic if it is going to deal with the problem, for it is only becoming more widespread as the site becomes more popular. Try watching any video with over 500,000 views or so, and you're guaranteed to see at least a few comments that will sway your views to dealing with the trolls if they are not already.

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