The following speech was delivered last night by Susan Wojcicki at the Appeal of Conscience Foundation Awards Dinner. Founded in 1965, the Appeal of Conscience Foundation is an interfaith coalition of business and religious leaders that works to promote religious freedom and human rights throughout the world.
It’s an honor to be here tonight.
You’ve helped create a more peaceful world, and your work to bring diverse voices together is particularly important to me.
I have a deep appreciation for interfaith discussions, since I saw them around the kitchen table in my childhood. My mother came from a religious Jewish family and my father came from a Polish Catholic family. And as a result, I grew up learning to accept and appreciate so many different points of view.
For more than 50 years, the Appeal of Conscience Foundation has promoted mutual understanding.
At YouTube, we haven’t been around quite as long—
just 14 years, to be exact. But we have a similar mission. We’re enabling understanding through digital dialogue, and we’re bringing people together with shared interests in virtual communities.
I was lucky I was one of the few people in the world to see online videos when this medium started. The first video I saw was of some purple puppets singing in a foreign language. I wasn’t sure what to think. When it ended there was a long pause because none of us knew what to think. And then my kids shouted, “Play it again!”
As more videos came online there were wacky and funny videos, but also many videos of people talking directly to the camera sharing something important about their lives—
a passion, a funny moment or a hard day.
It was immediately clear to me that people wanted to share their stories with others. But what surprised me even more is that so many other people wanted to hear these stories. From the very beginning, I could see that YouTube was a place for coming together in new ways and sharing our humanity.
Today, two billion people come to YouTube every month. Their reasons are different—
some want to connect with others around a shared passion like woodworking or see the latest in fashion. Others want to watch the hottest music video, learn a foreign language, listen to religious sermons of all faiths, or perfect a job skill.
For the first time in history, with a phone and an internet connection, everyone can access a global video library and anyone can post videos and find a global audience. We call the people who publish videos “creators.”
There are more than 500 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute by creators.
Collectively, creators have generated the world’s largest video library of How To content—
from how to play an instrument to how to fix an appliance. And they’ve created new mediums like vlogging, gaming and music mashups.
But we know that with this scale comes responsibility. That’s why responsibility is my number one priority.
Before I talk further about our important work on this front, I’d like to share a few examples of how online spaces foster dialogue and help build mutual understanding.
When I watched my first YouTube video, I could never have imagined that someday a teenager named Claire Wineland would start a YouTube channel out of her bedroom in California to cope with the complications of living with cystic fibrosis.
Claire saw the way we treat illness in our society, and she wanted something different. Claire passed away last year, but she leaves behind a legacy of videos to help us understand how to support someone who is struggling with serious medical issues.
When I watched my first YouTube video, I never could have imagined that someday Jenny Doan, a mother of seven in Missouri, would create a business out of quilt making by posting How To Quilt videos on YouTube.
Ten years after her son first encouraged her to post a tutorial, her channel has helped to transform her town into what they now call "the Disneyland of quilting"—
creating jobs and drawing thousands of tourists every month who share a passion for quilting.
Every day, there are many more stories like these unfolding on YouTube.
And that’s why I’m so focused on our responsibility. It’s critical that we get this right.
Our responsibility efforts are focused on the 4 Rs:
- Our first R—Remove. We’re removing content that violates our policies as quickly as possible. In the last quarter alone, we removed 9 million videos, the majority of which were first flagged by machines and removed before even getting a single view.
- Second, Raise: we raise up authoritative voices in searches and recommendations for news and information,
- Third, Reduce: we’re reducing recommendations of the content that brushes up against our policies,
- And finally, Reward. We set an even higher bar for videos on YouTube that make money on our site.
We’re working hard to implement all of the four Rs in a way that’s both fair and transparent for all our users and creators.
That’s why we’re continuing to invest in cutting-edge machine learning technology and why we’ve dedicated more than 10,000 people across Google to take on problematic videos.
These are historic times. Never before have we had the opportunity for so many around the globe to connect online, express their points of view, and create virtual communities, all under the same roof.
Having a digital town square where the world can come together and discuss everything has created some challenges…but it has also created extraordinary opportunities.
It’s these opportunities that inspire me every day. As we take on these complicated and unprecedented issues of responsibility at scale, I think about the decisions of today through the lens of the future. What will the critics say when they write their commentaries about this unique period of time?
I want to be sure that we’re on the right side of history, providing a blueprint for open platforms to protect but also empower the next generation of storytellers.
Thank you to the Appeal of Conscience Foundation for your efforts, and for encouraging all of us to make the world a better place.