What Happened: Well, maybe it was only a matter of time, but the Internet now appears to be editing itself. Remember how we used to think, “Whatever we put up will remain somewhere, forever”—no matter how much we wipe it off our Facebook page. Not anymore. Google-owned YouTube just announced that it’s going to allow channel-owners to create their own little enemies lists of words that, if contained in a post, will condemn that message to death row, pending a sign of remorse in the form of modification by the author. In California, a new law was just enacted that will allow those under 18 to call a do-over on any website or social media, if they injudiciously post something that, upon reflection, needs to be condemned to the Internet shredder.
What This Means for Brands: For those under 18, getting a second chance is probably a good thing, but YouTube’s new blacklisting privilege must be approached cautiously. The initial reaction of most brands is likely to be enthusiastic: They now can provide a more enriching and promotional experience for consumers on their curated channels. But if YouTube channels begin to look like a script from Father Knows Best or The Brady Bunch, then watch out. Consumers are pretty quick to sniff out censorship and what no longer sounds authentic—like when there are no critical comments at all. Brands should work to eliminate obscenity, outright rudeness and gratuitously nasty remarks—there’s way too much of those on the Internet anyway—but there’s a fine line that is very easy to cross when you end up sterilizing your channel and ultimately destroying the trust of your followers.
Contributing to TRENDING this week are Lucy Arnold, Jenna Carter, Lisa Helfer, MaryFrances Hicks and Abby Ray. Edited by Pat Wechsler.