Feature

YouTube’s new sex rules

The real reason for cracking down on raunchy Internet videos

YouTube is taking a step down a slippery slope, said David Sarno in the Los Angeles Times. The video-sharing site announced on its blog that it was imposing new rules to crack down on “sexually suggestive” clips and profanity. But “in all my years of YouTubing” I’ve never encountered a user offended by four-letter words or sexy dancing, so the company is probably just alienating users in this attempt to clean up its act.

Actually, YouTube is just one of many sites built on user-shared content that have decided it’s “good business to limit sexually explicit material,” said Jenna Wortham in The New York Times online. Ning, a platform that allows people to create their own social networks, is shutting down its “aptly named Red Light District” because adult fare doesn’t generate enough revenue to cover its costs.

YouTube’s newfound prudishness is a “wee bit” hypocritical, said Dan Tynan in Computerworld. For one thing, demanding that users claim to be 18 before they see the clips with “hot booties and thong bikinis” doesn’t protect young people, it just forces them to lie about their age. “YouTube reached critical mass” by reeling in users with “quasi-smutty videos”—it can hide its shady past, but it can’t escape it.

YouTube’s attempt to “class itself up” might not be about the money at all, said Erick Schonfeld in TechCrunch. It might be true, as Ning executives said, that many top advertisers don’t want to be associated with racy content. But YouTube could be betting that “the more it polices itself, the less likely that Congress or the FCC will try to police it in the future.”

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