Before he left The Hollywood Reporter for the greener pastures of Thrillist, Steve Bryant wrote a list of online video lessons learned. In said list is one of my favorite quotes about the medium: “Boobs evolved for thumbnails.”

No content producer or new media studio has cracked the code for internet success and strategies on how to make “Teh Best Webshow Evar!!!1!!” are in a perpetual state of flux (Where should you release your episodes? On what type of schedule? How long should they be? Does it have to be interactive? How interactive? Etc? Etc.).

But underneath all the trials and errors lies that tried and true TNA method of garnering an audience. Entire YouTube careers have been based on cleavage (see Athene Wins and Hot for Words) and it’s a well known phenomenon that in a regular old web series, the episodes with the most (or disproportionate) view counts are going to be the ones where the thumbnail is the most lascivious.

But that was the old YouTube. Now, there’s a new YouTube with quality standards that penalize the use of profanity and sexually suggestive material. A Youtube for all of us.

A post on YouTube’s blog outlines the new initiatives it will take to “make the collective YouTube experience even better” (for advertisers, not necessarily users).

  • Stricter standard for mature content – While videos featuring pornographic images or sex acts are always removed from the site when they’re flagged, we’re tightening the standard for what is considered “sexually suggestive.” Videos with sexually suggestive (but not prohibited) content will be age-restricted, which means they’ll be available only to viewers who are 18 or older.
  • Demotion of sexually suggestive content and profanity – Videos that are considered sexually suggestive, or that contain profanity, will be algorithmically demoted on our ‘Most Viewed,’ ‘Top Favorited,’ and other browse pages. The classification of these types of videos is based on a number of factors, including video content and descriptions. In testing, we’ve found that out of the thousands of videos on these pages, only several each day are automatically demoted for being too graphic or explicit. However, those videos are often the ones which end up being repeatedly flagged by the community as being inappropriate.
  • Improved thumbnails – To make sure your thumbnail represents your video, your choices will now be selected algorithmically. You’ll still have three thumbnails to choose from, but they will no longer be auto-generated from the 25/50/75 points in the video index.
  • More accurate video information – Our Community Guidelines have always prohibited folks from attempting to game view counts by entering misleading information in video descriptions, tags, titles, and other metadata. We remain serious about enforcing these rules. Remember, violations of these guidelines could result in removal of your video and repeated violations will lead to termination of your account.

As expected, this caused an outrage in the YouTube community, especially amongst its Producers with a history of gaming views.

Some made legitimate arguments that they need control of their thumbnails in order to properly brand their content. That’s a good point. Users who choose their thumbnail images not by cupsize but by relevance to their videos might become innocent victims within this new system. That sucks, but breasts shouldn’t be people’s biggest concern.

By algorithmically demoting content that’s sexually suggestive or contains profanity, YouTube is essentially censoring its users. It’s not full-blown censorship (probably nothing the NCAC is going to be up in arms about), but it’s still censorship. A difference of degree, not kind. And when does it end?

I realize YouTube needs to make money and attracting advertisers is easier when you promote content that’s “safe,” but does this mean the end is nigh for the say-whatever-you-want-it’s-the-Wild-West internet? In a few years will the site be a saccharine-coated candyland of family friendly content for Madison Ave.?

For further analaysis and deconstruction, check out YouTube Reviewed.

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