Freedom of speech and corporate responsibility can coexist online
When I was young, every time I wrote a letter to my grandfather, I was afraid it would be censored. My father had fled Communist Poland for the United States, but my grandfather could not escape and still lived behind the Iron Curtain. I learned at a young age that it can be dangerous when governments go too far.
As CEO of YouTube, I grapple with issues of freedom of expression and accountability on a daily basis. Businesses, civil society and governments face unprecedented challenges and sort through complex questions, determining where to draw the lines of the discourse in the 21st century. Policymakers around the world are presenting regulatory proposals – some argue that too much content is left on platforms, while others say too much content is being removed. At YouTube, we strive to protect our community while enabling new and diverse voices to be heard. Three principles should guide discussions on the regulation of online speech.
First, the open internet has transformed society in incredible ways. Leaders of the Group of Seven reaffirmed the core value of openness in a recent statement. YouTube makes the information available to anyone with an Internet connection. People from all over the world come to YouTube to find information, learn and build community. But creating a space that is open to all means that the bad actors will sometimes cross the line.
YouTube has always had community guidelines that set the rules of the road. We remove content that could cause actual harm, such as violent extremism, copyright infringement, and dangerous pranks. Some of our decisions are controversial, but we apply our policies equally, regardless of who posts the content or the political point of view expressed. At the same time, we accept the complexity and clutter inherent in the Internet. Removing anything controversial could silence important voices and ideas.
Principle 2: Democratic governments must provide companies with clear guidelines regarding illegal speech. It helps us remove illegal content faster and more efficiently. These laws must be based on international standards, as officials balance the right to information with the risk of harm. The rules governing the Internet are regularly updated, from copyright to elections and political campaigns. YouTube is ready to work with governments to resolve these and other issues.