According to this (admittedly speculative) piece in Wired:
Long considered home to the worst commenters on the internet, YouTube is in the process of upgrading its comment system in order to better tame its most loathsome members.
- K.C. Fennessy
- Throbbing Gristle's "Maggot Death" brings out the winners
It's about time, although I'll be curious to see how they do it. It's one thing for a user to say they dislike a video or to disagree with another commenter—that's engagement, that's community-building—but it's another to call people names and to unleash racist/sexist/homophobic diatribes. Where do you draw the line?
There's no question YouTube has its work cut out for it; its comment sections are widely regarded as cesspools. Meme harvester BuzzFeed called YouTube "a comment disaster on an unprecedented scale" with "the worst commenters on the internet;" online entrepreneur (and Wired contributor) Andy Baio called them "historically pretty bad;" and the online comic XKCD in 2006 imagined the moon landing being broadcast—and moronically heckled—on YouTube. "The internet has always had loud dumb people," XKCD illustrator Randall Munroe wrote in an accompanying caption, "but I've never seen anything quite as bad as the people who comment on YouTube videos."
A staff of human beings and not just some sort of computer algorithm could monitor all remarks—Amazon had workers maintaining customer review queues when I worked there—but that takes time and money. It also slows the process down, and users have grown accustomed to instant "look at me!" gratification.
One obvious direction for YouTube is to ask users for more information about themselves. Many members use anonymous handles since YouTube, unlike other Google sites, allows people to create distinct accounts. At other Google sites, users must use their Google+ identity, linked to a real name. As a general rule, people are far less likely to troll under their real name.
Read the whole article here. It would be nice to see Brooklyn Vegan and the Onion AV Club follow suit, but with even less resources at their disposal, that's not gonna happen. I'm the kind of information junkie who reads every web comment and listens to every movie/TV commentary track, but even I've got my limits. When the pissing matches begin, I move on to more harmonious environments.
As a few Wired readers note, the Google+ scenario also raises privacy concerns. Also: "Quit making me use my Facebook profile to login to things. I hate that."
Article and video hat tip: Roger Ebert (one from his Twitter feed, the other from his website).