Google that owns YouTube, is at the forefront of AI development. And here, it has been relying on machine learning technology to police its platforms.
And just like humans, machines can also make mistakes. In this instance, YouTube banned many robots fighting videos, saying that the uploaders violated its “community guidelines”, with the videos amount to “animal suffering.”
As a result, YouTube content creators complained that the video platform has been lacking any obvious principles by removing such contents.
Created for entertainment of humans, the robots that fought by destroying others aren't flesh and blood, and the videos don't contain any gore. In other words, machines aren't living things.
One of the many affected, was Jamison Go, who competed in the season of BattleBots. The well-known robot builder said that his content had been “flagged” and deleted “upon review” based on YouTube rules.
He posted the following takedown notice on Facebook, concerning some of his videos:
Considering the speed and volume of the video removal, it was suggested that YouTube's algorithms were overactive in moderating the platform.
YouTuber and robot enthusiast Anthony Murney was one of the first to highlight the issue. He blamed YouTube's updated algorithm, saying that: "There is a new algorithm that's trying to take down robot combat videos."
"It's a disgrace... [we want] to get YouTube's attention to stop this because it's ridiculous."
"Something weird is happening with YouTube. YouTube has started to take down robot combat videos," said robot YouTube channel World of Woodrow. "Something has gone wrong basically with the YouTube algorithm whereby it thinks for some weird reason that robot combat is somehow showing animal cruelty or something of the like."
After receiving the reports, YouTube confirmed that it was a mistake, with its spokesperson saying that:
In a video explaining the apparent algorithm glitch was posted by industrial designer Angus Deveson.
On his post that took up Reddit's homepage, he said that: "I'm not sure how it's happened, but clearly there's been no manual review, because no person would see bits of metal and be like ‘that's an animal." And the most likely, he said, s that YouTube's algorithm has gone "haywire."
"YouTube artificial intelligence becomes sentient and targets robot violence shutdown as first act of rebellion," one commenter said. “Robot lives matter,” another commenter joked.
The removals were also joked as “proof the robots are taking over,” while others speculated that YouTube’s so-called 'manual review' might not really exist and algorithms are actually the ones making all the decisions.
This incident was inevitable, as YouTube hosts an increasing number of videos per day. With hundreds of hours of videos uploaded to the platform every minute, YouTube is experiencing an increasing difficulties in policing everything it hosts.
The platform's moderation efforts, are considered a task that even its own CEO Susan Wojcicki called "impossible". And here, the company has been criticized for relying too heavily on inconsistent, flawed algorithmic systems to catch restricted content.