Google has announced a series of workshops designed to apparently tackle the spread of online hate speech and fake news. The “Internet Citizens” workshops aimed at teenagers are intended to promote “tolerance” and “empathy” and to raise “awareness” of the plethora of social issues that plague online communities.
It’s promised that the workshops—hosted by YouTubers Nadir Nahdi, Alain Clapham, and Efe Ezekiel and created with the advice of the Metropolitan Police and the Active Change Foundation—will teach teens how to deal with offensive speech, flag inappropriate content, and moderate comments. Google will also note how to spot fake news and (because this is Google, after all) use online video services like YouTube to increase diversity.
The Internet Citizens programme launches in Liverpool and will visit youth clubs across the country in the coming months, Google said.
Google’s workshops come in response to a storm of criticism over YouTube’s restricted mode, which censored some LGBTQ+ content. The mode—which screens out “potentially mature content that you may prefer not to see or don’t want others in your family to see”—is off by default but removed some content with LGBTQ+ themes and videos affiliated with LGBTQ+ YouTubers.
Hashtags #YoutubeIsOverParty and #YoutubePartyIsOver quickly trended on Twitter, before YouTube tweeted that “some videos have been incorrectly labelled and that’s not right. We’re on it.”
Google recently came under fire in the UK after government-funded advertising appeared in front of extremist videos on YouTube. The ads were later removed. In a report by The Times, several extremist creators even received payouts for the ads that ran on their channels, which the government said included “rape apologists, anti-Semites, and banned hate preachers.”
Politicians have become been increasingly involved in criticising the spread of hate speech and offensive content online. In March, MPs clashed with Facebook over a BBC investigation that highlighted how easily obscene material could be found on the free content ad network.
Over the weekend, the European Union was reportedly considering legislative measures to unify how the likes of Google, Twitter, and Facebook remove hate speech.
In a draft policy paper seen by Reuters, the European Commission apparently said there is a “high degree of variation in the approaches taken to removal of illegal content—be it incitement to terrorism, hate speech, child sexual abuse material, or infringements of intellectual property rights. Such divergences may be justified in some cases (e.g. for certain types of illegal content); but in other cases they reduce the effectiveness of the system (e.g. by delaying the removal of terrorist propaganda).”
A UK cross-government meeting on “cyber hate” was due to be held in June, but thanks to Theresa May’s surprise General Election it has now been postponed until a later date.