For 19-years and still counting, Youtube has become a very important platform for online video content. Not only for leisure and pleasure, like those cat videos that we all love to watch, but also education-type of videos designed to inform people of whatever topic they wish to learn. In fact, as of this year, there are more than 8,000 Youtube Channels that have more than 1-million subscribers. The content offered by millions of Youtube content creators have expanded the knowledge of common folks on topics they otherwise have to spend a lot in a formal learning institution to learn for themselves.
As rich Youtube is with regard to content, it also hosts many videos that we may consider as “grey area” morally and legally. Such contents are now under the strict censorship by Youtube, as the video sharing/hosting site started taking down “hacking demo videos.” As hacking videos belong to the grey area when it comes to legality, any knowledge learned by the viewers can be used for good and for harm. Security researchers themselves post videos of proof-of-concept hacking techniques against vulnerable systems using Youtube, as they reach millions of audiences that way.
It is not yet clear how effective Youtube’s new censorship policy of trying to stop the spread of black hat hacking know-how. IT Security professionals believe that Google’s decision does not make a dent against the hacking community, but rather just punishes white hat hackers who desires to provide responsible disclosure of security vulnerabilities. One video titled: “Safely Launch Fireworks Over Wi-Fi [Tutorial],” was taken down for some parts of the globe, uploaded by the Null Byte channel which has a vision of: “We focus on creating videos for aspiring ethical hackers, computer scientists, and the infosec community.” It is not yet fully clear if Youtube will seriously ban an entire channel for publishing hacking demo videos, as the company only issued a take down for now.
The host of the channel, @KodyKinzie went to Twitter to air his sentiments to this sudden censorship imposed by Google against what he calls as an “Instructional hacking and phishing”, content that educates people:
We made a video about launching fireworks over Wi-Fi for the 4th of July only to find out @YouTube gave us a strike because we teach about hacking, so we can’t upload it.
YouTube now bans: “Instructional hacking and phishing: Showing users how to bypass secure computer systems”.
Coming back from a long day to find over a hundred notifications from people being supportive is amazing, I really appreciate this community. I’ve worked hard on this channel to make learning infosec possible for anyone regardless of ability to pay, thanks for supporting me.
The video sharing site has enumerated the categories of videos that it will fully censor, which are the following:
- Instructional hacking and phishing
- Instructional theft
- Violent events
- Eating disorders
- Hard drug use or creation
- Instruction to kill or harm
- Dangerous or threatening pranks
- Extreme dangerous challenge
Critics believe such policy will curtail the learning potential of Youtube channels for teaching interested parties in learning ethical hacking, which is fully legal. As this is a developing story, We will continue to monitor if Youtube will reverse or even loosen their policy, possibly provide exemption for channels that are educational in nature.