September 16, 2023

THE YOUTUBE EFFECT is No Surprise...But Still Chilling

2022 / 98 min
Available at
Review by Fluffy the Fearless😺

In some ways, The YouTube Effect isn’t particularly revelatory. Part of this documentary chronicles the meteoric rise of the video sharing platform, from our go-to source for cat videos to a Google-driven cultural behemoth. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 20 years, you knew this already. 

Still, its history is kind of interesting. The film introduces us to its creators, as well as several individuals who’ve used YouTube for their various endeavors, some of whom achieved stardom (whether they deserve it or not). But what The YouTube Effect does best is show how the platform has become a double-edged sword. 

YouTube may indeed be the entertainment medium of choice for an entire generation, but it's also a soapbox for everyone with a chip on their shoulder and a hate-fueled agenda to reach others. In particular, members of the extreme right frequently rely on YouTube to present any crackpot belief as actual news. And as the film effectively shows, this is where an alarming number of people actually get their news. Again, we kinda knew this, but revisiting acts of intimidation, terror and violence perpetrated by YouTube-influenced psychos is chilling.

You can thank this guy for all those cat videos.
The YouTube Effect definitely directs a lot of focus on the platform’s dark side, mostly due to an distressing lack of self-regulation. Hence, one man’s struggle to have Google/YouTube remove video footage of his newscaster daughter’s murder has been largely fruitless. The film provides a persuasive argument that this social media giant is ultimately more concerned with advertising revenue than anything resembling ethics. YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki is also prominently interviewed, but comes across as oblivious (or indifferent) to the negative aspects related to the platform.

None of that is really a surprise, either, nor is the slightly subjective nature of the film as a whole. The YouTube Effect ain’t all doom & gloom, but while some of the platform's positive aspects are included, it definitely portrays Google and YouTube as a Big Brother-like corporate monster with its hands in everything. Whether or not the viewer ultimately agrees, this is a viewpoint worth contemplating.



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