Is YouTube hosting porn?

Quick Fire Question: What is arguably THE best movie streaming site in the world?

If you said YouTube give yourself a point! (and take a 2 hour lunch. You’re welcome.)

YouTube content creators are uploading over 300 hours of video every 60 seconds. There are 3.25 billion hours of videos watched each month and more than half of the video content is viewed on a mobile device. So its safe to say that YouTube has a pretty robust and powerful platform that can cater for all this insane video traffic.

But not anyone can upload anything onto YouTube. There are rules and codes of conduct which covers things like adult content, pirated movies, and using music in your videos that you don’t have rights to. These are all forbidden and YouTube has a sophisticated system to find these and remove them.

However, Torrentfreak.com reports that there seems to be a serious loophole allowing adult sites to host their porn on YouTube without YouTube being able to detect it.

Hosting Porn on YouTube

When you upload a video onto YouTube you can choose to make it Public, Private or Unlisted.

  • Public obviously means anyone can see the video, the video is listed in the channel, and the video will come up in the search results.
  • Private means that you need to invite specific people to watch the video and the video will not appear in any search results. If someone tries to share the link or embed the video on a website, it will not work.
  • Unlisted videos do not come up under the search results however ANYONE who has the link to the video will be able to view it and you can embed unlisted videos on a website.

Is seems like adult sites are uploading their porn to YouTube but marking the videos as unlisted. It is not clear if the YouTube Content ID systems that checks the content of each video for rule-breaking, searches through unlisted videos or only the Public ones. Therefore, these videos are not being detected and all the adult site owner need to do is embed the video onto their web page as you would do with any YouTube video. Essentially they are getting world class hosting for free from YouTube.

Takedown notice

Google has a Transparency Report  which shows videos taken down for copyright reasons. At the time of posting, from Dec 23rd to Jan 23rd, YouTube removed 64.1 million urls and 80, 500 websites were affected

YouTube transparency report

If the Content ID doesn’t detect infringement of copyright or breaking the YouTube rules, the other way content on YouTube is removed is when any member of the public reports a video as being inappropriate for various reasons. However, since the porn videos are unlisted and they don’t come up in YouTube searches, then the likelihood of someone stumbling onto one is very low and chances of reporting it is even lower.

YouTube reporting

Not just Porn

The problem is not limited to adult content. Having a platform that allows unlisted videos to be embedded and not checked through the system, could mean that illegal copies of movies and music could be uploaded and shared in the same way. So besides having to deal with pirate bit torrent site, it seems like the movie studios and record labels have yet another headache to deal with.

YouTube could technically disable the embedding of unlisted videos and this will solve this issue, however, this would create a bigger issue for those content creators who have a need to share a video but not with the entire world eg. PR agency or Brand who commissioned the video. Businesses also use YouTube to host their company’s videos and those are confidential and restricted to the company so they too mark their videos are unlisted but still embed those into the company’s internal site.

Back in the Duke-Nukem Wildenstein MS DOS days

In college back in the day when the internet was just beginning to be a “thing”, students used to hide computer games on the network buried deep in the folder structure (we called them Directories back in the MS-DOS days). As soon as the game was discovered and removed, the game was simply re-uploaded to another folder until the LAN Admin would discover that one too.

It seems like the cat and mouse game still continues but on a larger scale…

 

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