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Weekly Update - September 10, 2022: YouTube policy, Meet games, Twitter Birdwatch

It’s been an extraordinarily hot week here in California. I am so ready for fall. I hope wherever you are reading this from the weather is mild!

This week there are updates in YouTube for education and YouTube’s sexual content policy; new ways to play games in Google Meet; expansion of Twitter’s Birdwatch anti-misinformation program and more.

Of special note are links to several excerpts of tech reporter Mark Bergen’s new book “Like, Comment, Subscribe: Inside YouTube’s Chaotic Rise to World Domination”. He delves into interesting history and more recent content moderation struggles. If you are interested in what happens behind the scenes, be sure to check them out. (I want to read this whole book!)

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YouTube for Education

YouTube is working to improve as an educational tool for both teachers and creators. And, of course, students.
  • There is a new YouTube video player for education, that will show videos without ads, links or recommendations. This will be used in Google Classroom, as well as by education companies like EDpuzzle and Purdue Global.
  • Starting next year “qualified creators” will be able to offer free or paid Courses on YouTube.
  • Creators will soon be able to create quizzes in Community Posts

YouTube Policy Update

YouTube updated their policy on nudity and sexual content.

The policy now allows more sex and nudity in fictional and scripted content and educational content. It must be in the proper context and not “cross the line of sexually gratifying content”.

It also prohibits more sexual sounds in ASMR content, sexually explicit images (including thumbnails, avatars, banners and posts), and sex toys in use. Content uploaded before September 7 that violates this policy may be removed, but not result in a strike.

YouTube also noted that it is against YouTube policy to link to sites that feature pornography or otherwise violate YouTube’s Community Guidelines.

Hang out with your friends in Meet

If you have an Android device, you can use live sharing in a Meet video meeting to co-watch YouTube videos (if you have YouTube Premium) or play games like UNO! Mobile, Kahoot! or Heads Up!.

So 👏 Many 👏Emoji 😁

On your Android device, the Gboard keyboard will soon be able to “Emojify” messages with one tap.

Plus Emoji Kitchen has new emoji mashups for autumn, featuring fall leaves, pumpkins, bats and more. You can add those as stickers if you use the Gboard mobile keyboard.

Excerpts from Like, Comment, Subscribe

Mark Bergen's recently released book "Like, Comment, Subscribe:Inside YouTube's Chaotic Rise to World Domination" takes an inside look at what was happening over the years behind the scenes at YouTube. 

Did you know that a team of editors used to pick the videos that appeared on YouTube’s homepage? The exerpt of Bergen's book in The Atlantic takes a look at the rise and fall of these “coolhunters”.

The Big Technology newsletter has an excerpt from Bergen’s book about “Nutritious and Delicious”, inside YouTube’s early failed attempt to recommend videos that are good for you, and enjoyable too. Why did it fail? In part because it’s difficult to use automated systems to determine whether a video is “good for you”. Also “YouTube was preoccupied with Facebook’s rising threat and Google’s obsession with Google Plus, making it worry more about its survival than your nutrition.”

Gizmodo writes about revelations from Bergen’s book about “Elsagate”. YouTube had many extremely popular videos featuring kids characters (like Frozen’s Elsa) doing disturbing things. Advertisers weren’t happy. YouTube had to figure out how to deal with it - content was removed, and the ads came back.

Bloomberg has an article by Bergen about YouTube’s difficulties removing violent extremist content, from Muslim militants to white supremecists.

And The Verge has the story about how YouTube “broke up with PewDiePie, then got back together again”.

YouTube and Video

While live shopping is quite popular in China, it’s not catching on elsewhere. Instagram is scaling back their Shopping features, as has TikTok. At least YouTube is still keen on Shopping, and it will be interesting to see how that develops.

Web Publishers

If you have a Google Programmable Search Engine (formerly Custom Search Engine) on your site, note that iframed hosted pages are no longer supported. Google announced the phasing out of this feature in 2011 (!), so hopefully most website owners have already updated their search engine script.

The Google Search helpful content update was all rolled out by September 9. I’m not seeing any change, fortunately.

Social blogging platform Medium turned 10 last month. They highlight popular and celebrity posts and significant platform updates. It’s very celebratory. For a counterpoint, see Casey Newton’s article on “Why Medium Failed”.

Social Media

You can now schedule up to 10 Twitter Spaces up to 30 days in advance.

Twitter’s Birdwatch program is expanding. Contributors to the program help identify misleading Tweets. If their notes are rated “Helpful” by other contributors who have tended to disagree on past ratings, the notes will be made public. More Contributors are being added, the onboarding process has been redesigned to encourage thoughtful contributions, and more US Twitterers will see Helpful notes. In testing, the notes made people up to 35% less likely to like or retweet the misleading Tweet.

Twitter is offering more ways to share. Tweets on your mobile device, including sharing to LinkedIn, Instagram Stories, Snapchat and (in India) WhatsApp. At Social Media Today, Andrew Hutchinson points out this will help Twitter track sharing activity, which Twitter can’t do if people share Tweet screenshots.

Not only Google and YouTube are implementing informational banners and working to prevent the spread of misinformation in the run-up to the November 2022 midterm elections in the US. Pinterest and Snapchat are taking similar steps. I’m surprised Meta/Facebook/Instagram haven’t made a similar announcement (yet).


You can now easily view and edit contact details in Gmail, Calendar, Voice, Docs and other Android Google Workspace apps. For example, you will be able to tap a person’s name or avatar while composing a Gmail message, have their contact info card appear, then tap the edit pencil to update the information.


Image created using Stable Diffusion with the DreamStudio beta. Prompt “Woman sitting on a couch using a laptop computer in the style of Monet”

Andy Baio @Waxy explored “12 million of the 2.3 billion images used to train Stable Diffusion’s [AI] image generator”. They used a data set with images scraped from all over the web - Pinterest, WordPress, Blogger/Blogspot, Flickr, DeviantArt, Wikipedia, stock image sites and more. Stable Diffusion was released to the public in August.

The Depths of Wikipedia Twitter account posted a detailed look at what happened on Wikipedia in the minutes after the death of Queen Elizabeth II was announced.

Charlie Warzel @Galaxy Brain explains how he “Went Viral in the Bad Way”.

That’s all the updates for this week. Subscribe to get the Weekly Update in your email inbox or favorite feed reader every week. Miss last week’s update? Get it here.

Photo of asters by Sandra Zhupanska on Pexels. Free to use.