No morale in clickbait content

YouTube has gone from a small platform hosting low-quality videos of cats to a massive collective of news, entertainment, and information shared worldwide. With over 1 billion users watching over 5 billion videos every day, the sheer amount of content being shared is unparalleled by any other library of knowledge in history.

However, unlike any other library, YouTube has the potential to provide one thing for those who take part in the creation of media: an extremely lucrative career. With such a massive audience, YouTube has a problem with incentivizing those who are willing to do anything for a few minutes of attention through ad revenue. Users compete for their videos to have most controversial title or the most scandalous headline to get as many views as possible and to make as much money as possible from the ads that come before or during the video. The more people click on the video, the more YouTube’s algorithm suggests that video to other users, giving them an even larger audience. Eventually that video may even make the front page, giving it even more attention, more views, and more ad money.

However, this begs the question, is YouTube clickbait all that bad? Humans have always been creating content for attention; before YouTube there was television, before television there was radio, before radio there was live theater, so on and so forth all the way back to hoping someone would see the cool cave painting you put on a wall. It may be more profitable than ever before, and there may be new tools and new platforms to attract attention with, but it is all the same isn’t it? If people need to make a living off of something, creating videos that are intentionally misleading or capitalize on shock value cannot be wrong, can it?

I believe it can. The mass scale on which content can be created and shared is unlike anything humanity has even seen before, and with it comes the power to impact an entire country’s worth of people. No longer are media ethics a concern for journalists alone, it should become a responsibility of YouTubers as well, especially those with large audiences.

The Internet does not exist in a vacuum, and no longer is it a niche little club that most people are unaware of and bears no consequence on society. It is estimated that 80% of Americans use the Internet, and 80% of people watch YouTube. With almost the entire country watching, we need regulations. When we don’t effectively regulate, people will abuse the platform in order to further their own careers, regardless of the ethics.

Take for example, the case of YouTube star Logan Paul. An incredibly successful YouTuber who made multiple YouTube videos that were meant to attract attention with shock value, the most controversial of which featured the dead body of a man who committed suicide. The body, completely uncensored, appeared in the thumbnail of the video. Within the video itself, Paul and his friends stand around filming the body while joking and laughing, showing the man’s face over and over again. This video was eventually taken down, but not by YouTube, by Paul himself after the backlash threatened his popularity. YouTube hosted the video on its front page, allowing it to rake in millions of views before it was removed, and did not penalize Paul’s channel in any way.

A real person, who took their own life, was exploited for views on YouTube. There need to be restrictions put into place to prevent something like this from ever happening again. Some may have concerns over their freedom of speech being taken away. However, we already have similar regulations on television and radio. These rules are the reason why you don’t turn on the TV and see graphic footage of a real person’s corpse after a suicide, unlike what is readily available on YouTube.