Time for YouTube to get serious about cleaning up all the junk, spam and malware files on its site
YouTube is great for finding videos about pretty much everything. Need to learn how to fix a furnace or use the latest camera equipment? There’s bound to be a video shows you how. Unfortunately, amid the useful stuff, YouTube is also chock full of garbage. The question is, with its massive technical resources, why doesn’t the site do a better job keeping house?
I’ve written before about the epidemic of fake “full-movie” uploads that fill YouTube. That was in 2012. Now, four years later, the problem still exists. Apparently, YouTube isn’t concerned that its pages are full of spam files, many of them fake pirate movie uploads that lead users to sites rife with malware and money-making scams.
These fake uploads, promising full copies of hundreds of films, both indie and mainstream, are easy to find. Go to YouTube, search for a specific film title using the term “full movie,” and voilà, most results will lead to garbage. These bogus uploads fall into two categories. Some offer links to other dubious websites while others are merely dummy files uploaded to generate advertising income (for the user and YouTube). Some do both.
As for these offsite scam movie/gaming portals, it’s difficult to figure out who is actually behind them. The site URLs vary and include tzarmedia.com, gnomicfun.com, cnidaplay.com, jabirufun.com, flogame.com, among dozens of others. Curiously, a WHOIS search for these various domains indicates they are all registered via the same domain registrar, enom.com. One can’t help but suspect that this particular business model is being orchestrated by a few, linked operators. When I called their customer service number to ask questions I was given the proverbial run-around. Other contact information was essentially non-existent.
Why are such dummy files an issue? Not only do they pollute legit searches for content on YouTube, but they make the process of reviewing pirated content more difficult for rights holders. When I search for copies of my film using my Content ID account, I have to wade through dozens of these fake uploads.
When I get page of results that is nothing but dummy uploads why can’t doesn’t YouTube offer a select all option so that I can remove them en masse? Instead–if I want to remove them–I’m forced to click and open each one and go through a 5 step process: select takedown, select title, acknowledge, fill in my signature and then click takedown. Instead, why not offer a select all option?
Another interesting twist is that many of these fake movie uploads also share links to legit social media sites like MTV’s Facebook or The Wrap’s Twitter account. I checked to see whether the operators of these sites knew about this and was assured they didn’t. It would appear these dummy uploads include such links drive more traffic to the bogus uploads and make them seem legit.
What can YouTube do to prevent this scheme? Why not utilize their own fingerprinting tech (Content ID) to detect and block these dummy files? If necessary, why not employ a team of actual humans to help with the task. I imagine if their engineers put their minds to it the task would be a relatively simple one. Certainly YouTube can afford to invest in keeping its house tidy?
Why is do advertisers allow themselves to be part of this junkyard?
Perhaps YouTube doesn’t take action against such uploads because it makes money off them? Here are just a few examples I found recently–bogus uploads with advertisements for New York Life, Walmart, Tide and Walgreens. These fake pirate full-movie uploads emblazoned with ads are a dime a dozen on YouTube. Do these advertisers know what they’re paying for? Do they care? Perhaps TAG, the Trustworthy Accountability Group, should take a look at this situation and pressure YouTube to take action.
Can you think of any other business that could get away charging money this for type of thing? Isn’t Internet commerce–and YouTube–mature enough at this point to operate a business where what you see is what you get? Apparently not… Imagine walking down the aisles of Target and finding half the merchandise to be knock-offs or empty boxes?
It’s not only the spam fake movie uploads and advertising scams that are problematic. As a study by the Digital Citizens Alliance found, YouTube is also rife with uploads that link to various types of malware including RATS (Remote Access Trojans), used by hackers to install malware that hijacks computers of unsuspecting internet users. Why is it OK for YouTube to continue to allow activity that scams–and possibly endangers–users?
As I mentioned, YouTube has the technical expertise and financial means to develop better algorithms and Content ID matching to weed out these garbage uploads if it chose to do so. Until then, the site will increasingly resemble a hoarders home with junk stuffed into every conceivable corner. Is that any way to run a business?