Racism on YouTube

Today I discovered that one of the rooms at Austin is scheduled entirely around blacks and technology. I’ll be honest, I’m not sure how I feel about that distinction being made but lets not sweat the big issues. The talk I attended was entitled Racism on YouTube, I’ve heard community managers refer to YouTube as the Wild West, the panel used the term ‘Cesspool’ - pretty emotive language – but also accurate.  Find any video featuring a black, or other ethnic minority on YouTube and read the comments if you don’t believe me. 

The panel consisted of 2 YouTube ‘stars’, Andre Meadows of Black Nerd Comedy (http://www.youtube.com/user/BlackNerdComedy) and Francesca Ramsey, the lady responsible for “Shit white girls say to black girls” a video with nearly 10 million views (http://www.youtube.com/user/chescaleigh), They were supported by Academic Jenny Korn. 

As is usual with the panels, the talk was a little meandering, but having two people who’d had such personal experiences with the subject meant that there were some interesting points raised, and some funny anecdotes (odd for a chat on racism).

Some highlights:

The types of brands that approach both of the Vloggers – there was mention of fried chicken at this point.

The reduced opportunity to collaborate with other YouTuber’s, generally vloggers stick within their own ethnic groups. This wasn’t necessarily a racist move – more that the content types tended to clash a little – particularly true for beauty vloggers.

Most shocking was the level of vitriol they regularly receive in comments.

It was depressing to hear, however the pragmatic and positive approach that Andre and Francesca both took in dealing with it was inspiring.

The anonymity YouTube (used) to provide bred a deep level of nastiness, the panel believed it was that which led to YouTube being so much worse than other platforms.  I tend to agree, and the introduction of real names will go someway to weeding out some of the trolls – although there will always be those that circumnavigate such changes.

The panel were at pains to stress that the real shame would be for that abuse to put off other minority groups from creating and posting their own content.  As increased diversity in the types of people using YouTube will contribute to stemming the trend of racism on the platform.

Candice Juniper is Head of Social at Lean Mean Fighting Machine.