S’pore in top 10 nation list for uploading objectionable YouTube videos

In the latest report showing numbers for January to March 2024, Singapore came in 10th with about 100,000 removals. - Photo: Reuters

SINGAPORE: Singapore is among the top 10 nations that have uploaded the largest number of YouTube videos removed for flouting community guidelines.

According to Google Transparency Report, YouTube owner Google removed a record number of 1.2 million objectionable videos in Singapore in the last three months of 2023, putting it in second place after India.

In the latest report showing numbers for January to March 2024, Singapore came in 10th with about 100,000 removals.

About 40 per cent of the removed content from January to March 2024 violated child safety, including cyber bullying and sexualisation of minors, and about a quarter promoted dangerous or threatening pranks and instructional theft.

Removed videos also typically promote self-harm, hate, deception, violence and vulgarity, according to YouTube’s community guidelines.

Singapore first appeared in the top 10 list from July to September 2023, ranking third with about 640,000 removals.

Transparency reports on video removals go as far back as July 2019, when Google first published them.

YouTube uses a combination of artificial intelligence tools and human reviewers, including those in the community, to detect undesirable videos.

Recently, online platforms have stepped up enforcement after calls for more to be done to ensure online safety.

The latest call came from United States surgeon-general Vivek Murthy.

He said warning labels similar to those that appear on tobacco and alcohol products should be displayed on social media platforms, arguing that social media is linked to mental health harms for adolescents.

On June 21, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung and Minister for Social and Family Development Masagos Zulkifli also said in separate Facebook posts that there needs to be more decisive and effective measures to shape habits of device usage, especially for the young, with research showing negative effects and links to worsening mental health.

In Singapore, stepped-up enforcement came after the Online Safety (Miscellaneous Amendments) Act took effect in February 2023, said observers.

Singapore is one of the first jurisdictions in the world to introduce laws for platforms to take preventive measures to ensure online safety.

The law gives the authorities the power to direct social media platforms to remove online harms such as sexual and violent content, content that promotes cyber bullying, vice, organised crime, suicide or self-harm, and content that may incite racial or religious tensions or endanger public health.

A platform’s failure to comply may attract a fine of up to S$1 million, or a direction to have the social media service blocked here.

Under the law, a code of practice that took effect in July 2023 also sets out specific dos and don’ts for social media platforms that operate here, including Facebook, HardwareZone, Twitter, TikTok, Instagram and YouTube.

A YouTube spokesman said the platform has improved its enforcement processes and technology, possibly leading to a spike in the removal of videos uploaded from Singapore.

The same spike in video removal numbers has not been seen in other countries.

For instance, India has consistently been at the top of the list with about 2.6 million removals, and the US remained at below 800,000 removals between January and March 2024, similar to the three months before that.

Experts expect the figures for removed Singapore-uploaded content to ease and stabilise in the coming months as users may be more cautious when uploading content following tighter enforcement.

Tighter enforcement of the new law also resulted in more TikTok video takedowns in Singapore.

TikTok’s quarterly Community Guidelines Enforcement Report shows that about 607,000 videos in Singapore were removed in the last quarter of 2023 – the first time Singapore was featured in the report as one of the 50 markets with the biggest volume of video removals.

The majority of the removed videos – most of which featured mature themes and regulated goods – were identified by TikTok.

Its community guidelines do not allow videos to show penetrative sex or feature sexual services, or facilitate gambling or gambling-like activities.

Users are also not allowed to market tobacco products, drugs or other regulated substances through uploaded videos on the platform. - The Straits Times/ANN

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