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You control your YouTube

Laurie Niles
Published: July 9, 2008 at 10:07 PM (MST)
Sometimes the Internet feels like a big, fuzzy friend, doesn't it? The encouragement from strangers, who become Facebook or MySpace friends...the opportunity to put your poetry and performances out there for the world...

Fuzzy friend indeed.

Recently I came across an excellent performance by a violinist, posted on YouTube. It was the vibrant, lively performance of a young woman, in perfect harmony with her vibrant, lively personality. Beneath it were all the comments from residents of this appreciative world, among them, “The violinist may be thinking that to avoid being boring, she must be whoring...”

My first thoughts: Would you have said this to her face? Would you have said this if your real name were attached?

My second thought, get it OUT. Do not let that comment stand, friend.

On, we have learned, from 11 years of sometimes painful experience, that we must make readers accountable before we allow them to become members and post their thoughts, comments and work on the site. It's why we have such a rigorous registration and verification policy, and we are aggressive about identifying those who violate our Guidelines for Writers and responsive when readers report problems. (Just e-mail me!) Thus, we have a generally supportive vibe at, and a community that appreciates what we're doing.

This is not the case everywhere on the Internet, and especially on YouTube. YouTube attracts a general population and requires no verification for posting comments. That kind of community is not going to regulate what people say about you. Fortunately, YouTube allows you options, such as approving the comments that are made about your video posts. This puts you in charge of weeding out the inevitable bad content from anonymous readers.

So... DO IT. Filter the comments on your YouTube videos, and only let the ones you approve stand.

Is this fair and objective? Is this a violation of free speech?

Well, let's just ponder another question: is it fair for someone named “xpopok” to write a comment on a video of your 13-year-old son, saying he looks fat? Is it fair for someone named “lumis87” to call a young woman a “whore” because she plays with a lot of motion? Is it fair for a person named 2wy0l1o to comment that a Juilliard graduate plays out of tune because he missed one note in a Paganini caprice? Sure, maybe you put that video up for your students, or for your public relations campaign, or for the critical assessment of experts. But if you have created a public video, that video is there for an unpredictable assortment of viewers all across the globe. Those viewers are free to say what they may, and depending on the setting you've chosen, to post those comments to the world.

I'm all for free speech, provided an identifiable PERSON is doing the speaking. At one point, in the early days of, we allowed people to post anonymously. We learned something very important: People will say anything and everything under the shroud of anonymity. Once we made people use their names, the level of discourse improved remarkably; people chose their words and spoke to each other more like humans speaking to humans. (Here on SensibleTalk, we do allow anonymous comments, but they go up only after an editor's approval.)

"Free speech" does not mean that you have to endure the blathering of every crackpot on the Internet. There's no integrity and little value in the ill-considered judgments of a coward.

Laurie Niles also can be found at

From a reader at on July 11, 2008 at 12:18 PM

I'm not sure I agree. Unlike the internet, reality doesn't have a filter. "Jonny2007" is no more hurtful than "johnny from math class". Either can come up to your 13 year old and say "hey you suck". thats part of life.

The internet allows for these comments and at times can be very helpful because of it. Particularly in an artistic venue, it may be helpful to hear the unfiltered comments of others. Similar to the stranger that says "hey you sat in something and its all over your pants". It stings but none of your friends had the gusto to say it. The comments often lead to an improved perpective or at least a new one that is out from behind rose colored glasses. Constructive and even insulting criticism is a learning tool and indeed, a freedom allowed by this country. (Thank God)

If you don't want any of this commentary, don't post your videos. Every 13 year old has to go to recess, not every 13 year old has to be the next YouTube sensation.

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