Youtube is a phenomenal video platform. Youtube, however, is also a business. So far censorship at Youtube has been along two lines: removing content that people post but do not own, and removing content that is deemed pornographic.

In the case of copyright, the issue has been clear. Content that is owned by the major studios, production companies has to be removed if they so request. Pornography has been more iffy but Youtube has taken the American approach that considers both nudity and sex to be pornography. In Europe where I live nudity is commonplace and appears in most major newspapers and even views towards pornography are more relaxed. In Europe’s competitor to Youtube, Daily Motion pornography is featured as well.

But what about a new type of censorship that may appear in Youtube, a ban on commercials? Say you make content and you get Adidas to sponsor it. Will Youtube allow you to post your content with your own ads and not share with Youtube? And to be more precise, what is an ad? Is a product endorsement an ad? Is an infommercial an ad?

If I were running Youtube, this is what I would do. First I would quickly launch a version of Youtube in many different languages. Then I would adapt to each culture. In puritanical and litigious America, I would live by local rules; in France, I would live by the same rules Daily Motion lives by and have pornographic content. In Spain, I would also live by local rules. If El Pais Spain´s most respectable newspaper publishes a marketplace for prostitution, why be more puritanical than El Pais? Concerning advertising, I would allow content producers to show their ads and ask for nothing. This is still super valuable for Youtube, for if it bans ads content will migrate to other platforms. This I would make a global rule. In general, I think what Youtube needs to continue is its phenomenal growth by adding local languages, local content and local habits. Youtube can’t all be delivered in English with American rules. Having said this, I would not invest in a business that was mainly based on pornography and don’t particularily like the industry. But as I live in Europe, and in Europe we mostly reject the notion that things we do not like should also be disliked by others or worse, banned. To each, his own so long as it is legal. Applying America’s laws universally is a bad idea in general and a bad idea in the case of video platforms in particular.

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Anonymous on February 22, 2007  · 

Very interesting !

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Will on February 26, 2007  · 

Well, I’m not sure if YouTube will be able to keep ads of their site. Especially ones snuck into videos. I mean — we have only seen the first major strike in the Gawker fiasco — and I would assume that was the first of many to come.

How can they allow everyone to post everything, and fitler out these attempts at marketing? Won’t they get deluged with such videos? It seems like a hard nut to crack — especially if your business is based on user-generated content, where anyone can upload.

I’m not sure if user-generated content can last — won’t every “viral marketer” out there take it over?

– Will

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Larko on March 1, 2007  · 

I agree with you in most parts. Having a separate version in each language has a down side, though. A multi lingual user would have to create a separate account for material in each language. And I am afraid that far from all languages could ever be covered. Where would this leave speakers of a language like Estonian which is spoken only by approximately one million people in the World?

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