YouTube bans robot-battle videos citing ‘animal cruelty’

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Robots aren’t alive — yet — but that didn’t stop YouTube AI from trying to protect its own kind from so-called “animal cruelty.”

On Monday, robot enthusiasts on YouTube reported that their videos featuring robots fighting each other, a la “BattleBots,” had been removed from the site.

An accompanying letter sent to the creators of such videos stated their content had violated their community guidelines, which prohibit the depiction of harm to animals.

“Today is a sad day,” wrote “BattleBots” competitor Jamison Go on his Facebook feed, adding a screenshot of YouTube’s warning letter. “Robot builders across the world cried out in agony as YouTube’s algorithm falsely identified personal videos of robot sport as ‘animal cruelty’ and ‘cock fighting.’ ”

Sarah Pohorecky, also a “BattleBots” participant, told Vice’s Motherboard that she, too, had had videos removed from the site, and was also given a disciplinary “strike” to her account.

“I’d say off my head that at least 10 to 15 builders have been affected,” she said, also pointing out that these videos involved no real animals, though a few of the bots were named after animals.

The video below, created by Go, is one such example of what the algorithm falsely deemed as “deliberate infliction of animal suffering.”

The company, which is owned by Google, has confirmed to multiple outlets that the action was taken by mistake, and that the videos have since been restored.

“With the massive volume of videos on our site, sometimes we make the wrong call,” a YouTube spokesperson told Motherboard. “When it’s brought to our attention that a video has been removed mistakenly, we act quickly to reinstate it. We also offer uploaders the ability to appeal removals and we will re-review the content.”

Pohorecky and others have criticized YouTube’s overactive and inconsistent efforts to police content, and, furthermore, the byzantine appeal process.

She continued, “I just think that it’s sad that some people may end up losing old fight videos from a fun hobby because a YouTube AI engineer didn’t do their job properly.”

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