YouTube has struggled to keep video of the New Zealand mosque shooting off its platform, with Neil Mohan, chief product officer of the world’s biggest video hub, telling The Washington Post on Monday that the site’s moderators were pulling one video per second down in the hours following the attack.
Unable to stem the flood of uploads, YouTube’s team of senior executives assigned to dealing with crises took “unprecedented” steps, according to The Post, including temporarily disabling the ability to search for the attack video in order to stop it from shared.
“This was a tragedy that was almost designed for the purpose of going viral,” Mohan told The Post. “We’ve made progress, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have a lot of work ahead of us, and this incident has shown that, especially in the case of more viral videos like this one, there’s more work to be done.”
The attacker, a 28-year-old Australian named Brenton Tarrant, seemed to orchestrate the attack with the intent of grabbing maximum online exposure by live streaming it. He also made several online-specific references in his manifesto, including a nod to YouTuber PewDiePie.
Mohan’s comments highlight the near-impossible challenge of keeping violent videos off YouTube, even with a team of moderators and artificial intelligence tools dedicated to scanning and removing clips. A person familiar with YouTube’s response told TheWrap on Friday it had removed thousands of uploads of the shooting within the first 12 hours after the attack.
News reports showing segments of the attack will not be removed from YouTube, as the company allows exceptions to its ban on graphic content if it contains news value. But the company, like Facebook and Twitter, has leaned on AI and its moderation team to remove uploads of the raw video — something Mohan and YouTube officials felt wasn’t under control until Saturday.
“Every time a tragedy like this happens we learn something new, and in this case it was the unprecedented volume” of videos, Mohan said. “Frankly, I would have liked to get a handle on this earlier.”