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Assigning Authority to Videos on the Youtube Platform

In the past few years, it has been apparent to the world that the Youtube platform’s policies have been undergoing many changes whether it be the introduction of ads mid-video, the growing number of official Youtube channels belonging to Television corporations ( the presence of late night talk shows especially has been growing on Youtube), and the recent controversy around video demonetization.

I remember back when I was in middle school, it was common to see videos on Youtube that were recordings of copyrighted content stay on the platform for several months, if not years. Today, such content gets removed within a matter of days with the increased emphasis on copyright striking. Controversy has also been surrounding Youtube Trending videos which are videos decided based on an algorithm that takes into account the channel’s subscriber count, the videos views, view velocity, and subscriber velocity and probably some other unknown factors. Throughout all of these changes, there has been growing tension between youtubers and the platform itself. The platform often insists that they are doing their best and trying to improve their system to be friendlier to youtubers; while youtubers often claim that the platform cherry picks videos that they want viewed and causes grief and demonetization to channels and videos that they disapprove of. I do not know enough to say whether Youtube plays a direct hand in which videos are “promoted” by putting them on trending or if the youtubers themselves just don’t have a good enough grasp on how the algorithm works.

However as someone who frequents watching Youtube videos on his free time, a recent video has me curious about how things are really run. On the trending portion of the site, I came a cross a video by Fox News (run by Fox News of course) which had only a measly 60,000 views, give or take, yet was ranked higher trending than the video below it which had a significantly greater amount of views. Now, 60,000 views is not something to scoff at, however, at around the same time (within the same 24 hour span) there had been a video uploaded by a certain controversial Youtuber, if not the most controversial, which had garnered several millions of views and the respective channel receiving a substantial raise in subscriber count just moments after it being posted- and, strangely enough, nowhere to be seen on Youtube Trending.

In class, we have been discussing about graphs with certain nodes carrying authority over others. Youtube, as a whole is a network consisting of  many videos that represent the nodes of the graph. A video’s accessibility to viewers accessing the platform describe its “authority” in relation to other videos. Now normally videos which have the highest authority would be those that are viral, videos that belong to already popular channels, and important videos that attract a wide target viewing audience. If, however, the platform does indeed pick and choose which videos they want to appear on the Youtube trending list, which is quite literally the first videos to be shown on the front page (for those without accounts; for those that do, it is still very much accessible), then the platform can manually decide what amount of authority each video should have. Even if a video that wasn’t initially popular is manually put onto the trending video list, over time they will naturally grow to make up for the lack of “authority” it has from the exposure and accessibility it is given. If the platform can indeed do this, then it must already have a significant hand in deciding which videos are shown to the many millions of viewers and which videos are popular by granting videos belonging to big networks and corporations this special privilege of authority.

Well, of course, I could always still be wrong.




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October 2017