'Huffing' Outcry Prompts YouTube to Clarify Policy

YouTube Policies Questioned

Fisher also criticized YouTube's policy, described in Schaffer's letter, of allowing Web site users to monitor the content -- the same policy used by eBay and Craigslist. If visitors to the site have a problem with a specific clip, they can flag the content. A team of YouTube administrators then investigates the flagged material.

To Fisher, the company has the resources to monitor the material more thoroughly itself. He cited YouTube's multibillion dollar sale to Google, and the search engine giant's huge profits.

"They know they can afford to put 100 people on staff to answer these flagged videos," Fisher said. "You can't say 'we don't have a department,' or 'we're overwhelmed.'"

A company spokesman would not say how many YouTube staff members are assigned to monitor flagged content, but did say that the questionable clips are looked at around the clock.

Clips featuring drug abuse have always violated the Web site's terms of use, the spokesman said.

"We are fully aware these videos are inappropriate," the spokesman said. "We have always worked to remove this content once we are notified of it."

While YouTube may be legally protected by the terms of use, the issue does raise questions about Internet regulations, something that YouTube has grown accustomed to. Just last week, Viacom requested that 100,000 clips from its various networks be removed from the site.

"Law is developing for the Internet, but of course, the Internet is not like broadcast television and radio," said Christine A. Corcos, an associate professor of law at Louisiana State University. "You just can't pick up the law from the regulated industries and apply it to the Internet."

Corcos, who edits a media law blog, said that regardless of a site like YouTube's monitoring policies and terms of use, there so many clips being posted that constantly enforcing them becomes an impossibility. "Some of these sites seem uncontrolled because people upload material on them at a wild pace."

In December, Weiss, the advocate for the dangers of inhalants, found out just how hard it is for site visitors to continually monitor YouTube postings.

Weiss e-mailed the 9,000 members of the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition, asking them to comb through YouTube for huffing clips and request the content be stripped from the Web site -- per policy.

He said that while some of the clips were pulled by YouTube, others were not, and with 100,000 clips added to the site daily, new videos featuring the drug abuse emerged.

The clips, Weiss said, continue to anger him.

"In a lot of ways, it glamorizes huffing," he said. "It shows people that there's no consequences."

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