YouTube Adds 'Safety Mode'

SAN BRUNO, Calif.—YouTube is calling it a nod to its diversity of content. CBS News is saying it's in response to pressure from parents. But whatever the reason, the massive video-sharing site today incorporated parental filtering mechanisms into its product.

"Diversity of content is one of the great things about YouTube," wrote Jamie Davidson, associate product manager, on the YouTube blog. "But we know that some of you want a more controlled experience. That's why we're announcing Safety Mode, an opt-in setting that helps screen out potentially objectionable content that you may prefer not to see or don't want others in your family to stumble across while enjoying YouTube. An example of this type of content might be a newsworthy video that contains graphic violence such as a political protest or war coverage. While no filter is 100% perfect, Safety Mode is another step in our ongoing desire to give you greater control over the content you see on the site.

"It's easy to opt in to Safety Mode: Just click on the link at the bottom of any video page. You can even lock your choice on that browser with your YouTube password. To learn more, check out the video below.

"And remember, ALL content must still comply with our Community Guidelines. Safety Mode isn't fool proof, but it provides a greater degree of control over your YouTube experience. Safety Mode is rolling out to all users through out the day; watch for the new link at the bottom of any YouTube page."

According to the CBS story, "Marsali Hancock, the president of Internet safety advocacy group, was one of several parents who started complaining to YouTube nearly two years ago, urging the company to do more to keep teens from seeing sexually explicit, violent and other dangerous content, such as a video promoting anorexia, while still enabling them to enjoy the site."

Like the word "pornography," however, Hancock has stretched the meaning of the term "sexually explicit" beyond recognition. 18 USC defines it as, "Actual or simulated sexual intercourse, including genital-genital, oral-genital, anal-genital, or oral-anal, whether between persons of the same or opposite sex; bestiality; masturbation; sadistic or masochistic abuse; or lascivious exhibition of the genitals or pubic area of any person."

Of course, Hancock and other parents may have good reason to want to control what their children see on YouTube, and the addition of such controls is arguably long overdue, but the slow degradation of the correct meaning of such important and legally meaningful words and terms also is cause for concern.