The presence of social media began as a positive presence. People could now keep in closer touch over greater distance. Sharing events, photos, art, etc. presented opportunities to make greater connections all over the world. But with it came an infection that was not only encouraged, but has become widely accepted as a norm. Documentary “The Youtube Effect” takes a hard look at the spread of hate speech, conspiracy theories, and the insistence of keeping them around.
Produced and directed by Alex Winter (“Bill & Ted,” “The Lost Boys“) and legendary producer Gale Anne Hurd (“Terminator” franchise, “The Walking Dead“) , the documentary covers why YouTube continues to enable the spread of hate. “What keeps people on platforms is building anger, rage, resentment. It’s not just accidental. They’re being guided down that particular rabbit hole,” Hurd told UPI.
The documentary interviews YouTube co-founder Steve Chen, former CEO Susan Wojcicki, and many content creators regarding the system and experiences with YouTube’s algorithm. “The negative sort of hate-filled, violence inducing or inciting rhetoric are very gripping,” Winter said. “You don’t need an algorithm for that to be a problem. That’s just a human nature problem.” When it does become a problem, is when YouTube starts turning a profit off of the ads present in the videos.
“What company is going to want to police itself when it’s monetizing that type of content? Somebody who’s pounding a table and calling for civil war may get more folks watching them than someone who’s talking about the latest Indie movie.” Winter said. Why would a site bother taking down videos that create larger profit margins? But the documentary isn’t just about the problems with algorithmic profits. It also highlights how YouTube has empowered content creators and helps build positive communities. More than likely a very interesting watch.
The film premiered at Tribeca Film Festival 2022, and has a handful of screenings around the country scheduled. We’ll let you know about when the documentary gets an official release.