Examination of Witnesses (Questions 320-330)|
1 APRIL 2008
Q320 Adam Price: That is not the
point. It is a mistake you made as a company and the system is
Mr Walker: No system is perfect.
The argument is that in the vast majority of situations we do
get to the right answer and we get to the right answer very quickly.
The challenge is how to make a better system that continues to
honour the desire for free speech and does not interpose a government
or a business between individuals who are putting up perfectly
legitimate, positive, pro-social messages and the small number
of people who are abusing the rules and that is the difficulty.
There is no question that everybody regrets the fact that this
video was on the site for a minute.
Q321 Mr Evans: Can I ask what changes
you have introduced in the company since making that error to
ensure it does not happen again?
Mr Walker: A number of different
things. The mistake that was made had to do with the way the individual
reviewer coded the video so that additional flags that came in
were not immediately escalated to the beginning to the queue.
We have made that much harder to do. It is now a double trigger,
it needs to be reviewed twice. I do not want to go into the details
because it would allow people who are trying to game the system
to avoid the technologies. Where there are other signs of content
being inappropriate that allows for a secondary review. There
are a number of other things I would be happy to talk about in
a private session.
Q322 Rosemary McKenna: When you come
across these things do you pass them to the local police immediately?
Mr Walker: In that particular
case we worked very closely with local police because the Internet,
while it raises these challenges, is also a very transparent medium.
The perpetrators of this crime are now captured on video in a
way that is very powerful evidence for law enforcement to go after
them and the same is true for some of these other instances of
cyber bulling or other places where people appear to have been
aiding and abetting the underlying crime.
Q323 Paul Farrelly: Very quickly,
Mr Walker, you have admitted to us that there is not a single
person within YouTube (owned by Google) who proactively monitors
offensive material. You have just told us that because of the
amount of material that your reviewers of flagged stuff have to
look at there are human failings and a gang rape got through.
The next question is: how many people do you employ at YouTube
to look at stuff that is flagged as offensive? How many people?
Mr Walker: Again it is a combination
Q324 Paul Farrelly: How many people?
It is a very simple question.
Mr Walker: I think it is impossible
for me to sort out the people who are doing physical review from
the people who are engineers working
Paul Farrelly: Have a guess.
Q325 Chairman: Can we leave it that
we would ask if you could supply the Committee with further information?
Mr Walker: We will provide everything
that is public and that which will be useful to you.
Chairman: We are going to need to move
on to our next session but Alan Keen has one or two questions.
Q326 Alan Keen: Before we come on
to the IT questions, you very rightly tried to avoid areas which
are not your expertise but we do not often get an expert with
your knowledge here. I have got four grandchildren under five
and the world moves so quickly: what have we got to fear in the
next ten years? Give us some idea. This must be talked about all
the time. I know you concentrate on trying to stop the problems
now but what do we need to be looking out for?
Mr Walker: It is an interesting
question. I would say that the Internet generally as a daily communication
platform is a different way of working and communicating than
anything we are used to. When we talk about user-generated content
or social networking, we need to think about a world that opens
up new vistas for kids and ways to communicate across the country,
make friends, all of this, but also which creates this Second
Life virtual world phenomenon which has a whole new set of challenges.
I would not say dangers because I think, appropriately educated,
kids can work in that environment, but it is a different way of
presenting yourself to the world. I talk to my children about
how an email is a different way of working in the world than talking
to people face-to-face and that you have to be very careful about
how you present yourself, what information you provide, and how
people will see you. I think the Internet as a tool generally
will only become more commonplace and worldwide as a communications
platform, so you have to think a little bit about how that facilitates
collaboration in the way you work with people in your company,
community and your school group. If there is zero cost to communication,
collaboration becomes much easier and much more powerful. That
is generally a very good thing but it also creates these risks
of anti-social content and conduct in creating new things. I think
that is something to be watched but not pre-judged until the problem
Q327 Alan Keen: Will technology enable
us to control the bad things that can happen on the Internet?
Is that developing? We were pleasantly surprised when we were
looking at counterfeit reproduction of films that the signals
go right through the film and it is not just catching a bit at
the beginning. Should we be confident that things will get better
and not worse?
Mr Walker: In general that is
a useful approach to new technologies and it has been the case
for the last couple of decades, and I think in specific areas,
yes. We have talked a little bit about watermarking to avoid copyright
infringement. Watermarking is challenging because once it is broken,
it is broken for ever, whereas fingerprinting or video identification
is actually more powerful, because if you try and circumvent it
by tilting your video camera a little bit or tinting something
orange, we can adjust on the server side to match it against this
digital library of Alexandria that we are accumulating of various
kinds of video content, and technology turns out to be a very
good and effective tool when used in a collaborative way. The
next challenge for us is to focus on a lot of these offensive
materials, which is a harder technology challenge. Technology
will never completely substitute itself for human judgment but
the beauty of the Internet and of technology generally has been
the ability to programme in intelligent rules, so essentially
to discern from your query for "flowers" you are looking
for a picture of a flower, you would like to purchase flowers
for your spouse, you are looking to do research on flowers, or
something else, have all of those different threads and give you
the information that you are looking for. That is not because
we have a lot of people working on it; it is because we have the
ability to develop technology that incorporates some aspects of
human intelligence and discerns your intent.
Q328 Alan Keen: Internationally in
the negotiations you haveand people have mentioned China
and Zimbabwedo you see in your meetings and discussions
that gradually the world will be educated and these regimes will
change? It is Foreign Office policy in a way that we are talking
about, but from the IT point of view you have got this knowledge,
so what is happening; is it getting better?
Mr Walker: I think it is getting
better. It is a big challenge because you have one Internet and
you have a global platform and 200 different countries and they
are not used to a world in which everybody has their own digital
printing press. That is very challenging particularly to regimes
that have limited the distribution of information in the past.
That said, you see international standards changing. There was
an incident in Pakistan not long ago where the Pakistani Government
was concerned about a video that was critical of the Government
and they blocked YouTube from being accessible in Pakistan, but
inadvertently blocked it from being available anywhere in the
world. Any request that was going to YouTube was directed to Pakistan
instead. Within a couple of hours, as a result of government-to-government
communications and our intervention, they reversed that and made
it universally available. We see a growing sense that undue interference
with the Internet and undue blocking of information in inappropriate
ways is becoming internationally less acceptable.
Q329 Alan Keen: Coming on to boring
issues but vital to this inquiry, can you tell us a bit about
SafeSearch and the Byron Report recommendations on that? Can you
enlighten us a little bit on that?
Mr Walker: Sure. We have, as you
know, SafeSearch as a default setting on the Google search generally
which avoids the display of offensive or pornographic imagery
that might otherwise be out there on the net. There is also the
possibility for an enhanced level of safe search that edits text
as well. That is somewhat more complicated because you do not
want to filter out somebody who is searching for information about
breast cancer or sex education or other appropriate materials,
but it is available as requested. We are also looking at a variety
of other tools that we can provide to parents to further facilitate
that. Again, as in many of these questions, it involves a question
of balance, and of privacy concerns on that side because to block
a web application essentially requires you to know in a verifiable
way whose computer it is and who is behind that computer, and
that is something we continue to work on.
Q330 Chairman: I think we are going
to have to draw a line here since Dr Byron has been waiting very
patiently. Mr Walker, can I thank you very much.
Mr Walker: Thank you, Sir.
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