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YouTube CEO Neal Mohan says tough content decisions can be "tradeoff between two bad choices" but safety is company’s "North Star"

YouTube, a subsidiary of Google, boasts a staggering user base, with more than a couple of billion regular visitors and tens of millions of content creators.

Neal Mohan, the CEO of YouTube, stepped into the role earlier this year. He told “CBS Mornings” in his first TV interview as CEO that its mission is to give everyone a voice and show them the world. However, he acknowledged the tough decisions he faces regarding content moderation and said that many times, it’s about choosing between two difficult options.

“Whenever a decision comes up to me, it’s typically a tradeoff between two bad choices. Otherwise, the decision would’ve been made somewhere else in the organization,” he said.

“And my number one responsibility is keeping our ecosystem of creators, viewers, all of our partners safe on YouTube. And I put that above anything else that we do,” said Mohan.

Mohan said that his top priority is keeping the platform’s ecosystem of creators, viewers, and partners safe, even above profit considerations. Safety, he said is the “North Star” by which they govern all of our actions.

Regarding YouTube’s algorithm, which suggests videos to users, Mohan said that each user’s experience is unique.

“Your experience with YouTube almost by definition is going to be different than mine,” said Mohan.

But those recommendations, which drive most of the views on YouTube, have also stirred concern that they don’t just reflect interests but actually develop them.

“Every viewer’s, you know, journey on our platform is theirs. So I don’t want to speak to anybody’s individual experiences on the platform. But what we endeavor to do is give them personalized recommendations, but we raise up content from authoritative sources when users are looking for news information. And third-party researchers have shown that we’re not leading people down those paths,” said Mohan.

The company tweaked its algorithm a few years ago, and several studies since then have found YouTube avoids serving misleading or extremist content to regular users. However, some of the research shows those who actively search for such content can still find it on the site.

Recently, YouTube decided to allow videos that make false claims about fraud in past elections, citing a commitment to promoting open discourse and allowing viewers to judge the validity of content.

Comparing YouTube to a town hall forum, Mohan said, “We want to be a platform where that type of discourse is allowed. And ultimately, it’s up to our viewers to judge whether that candidate is ultimately worthy of their vote or not.”

The company is focused on winning the battle of users and enhancing the user experience, with recent announcements of new features, including AI-powered audio translation for YouTube videos, AI-generated background options for YouTube Shorts, and a new video editing app, YouTube Create.

It’s another sign YouTube intends to be just about all things, to all users.

“The way I would describe it is we are in the creator economy business. I mean ultimately, we do two things. We help creators find an audience and then we help creators earn a living on our platform. And that’s our mission, and that’s the way we think about our business,” said Mohan.

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