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What Is Real On YouTube? 277

An anonymous reader writes, "The popularity of user-generated video sites like YouTube has given rise to deceptive videos created for self-promotion, advertising, or even smearing rival brands. This latter format, dubbed the 'smear video,' depicts a rival brand's product exhibiting fictitious faults. One example is the 21-second YouTube video entitled 'Samsung handset, easy to break at one try!', which shows a smiling woman easily snapping the new Samsung Ultra Edition mobile phone in half. Samsung says the phone was rigged to snap and the video has now been removed from the site. The article also accuses those who created the now infamous Lonelygirl15 YouTube videos of 'deception for profit. Misrepresenting commercials as independent user-generated content, actors as members of the public, and fiction as fact.' Will user-generated video sites increasingly confront visitors with the disturbing possibility that the video they're watching is not a home video at all, but a sophisticated ad campaign?"
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What Is Real On YouTube?

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  • Just YouTube? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mrn121 ( 673604 ) on Monday September 18, 2006 @04:41PM (#16133405) Homepage
    This has been a main criticism of the internet since the first newsgroups began appearing years ago. You could always write a blog or review of something posing as anyone pretending to know anything. YouTube is no different, save the fact that manipulation and misrepresentation of facts can be created and shared easily in a video format. I fail to see how this is a new (read: interesting) question.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 18, 2006 @04:43PM (#16133432)
    It's obvious from the skillful editing (watch how the timing of the cuts seem like a documentary or a "reality" show and not like some kid on a webcam) that at the very least lonelygirl "knew what she was doing" and was creating a narrative rather than just randomly talking about her life. That this narrative was created by professionals should come as no surprise.
  • by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Monday September 18, 2006 @04:45PM (#16133449) Journal
    Headline: Not everything on the internet is real

    More news at 11

    How are fake videos any different from fake websites?

    I wish someone had taken the old "fake website" con, changed it to "fake video" and patented the idea.

    For the day that faux computer generated humans are perfected, I call dibs on "fake webcam sluts"
  • by bunions ( 970377 ) on Monday September 18, 2006 @04:46PM (#16133462)
    I think it was Bruce Sterling, if anyone recognizes it, let me know.

    They were talking about the concept of Temporary Autonomous Zones, like the ones in the carribean that pirates frequented - lawless places which somehow managed to govern themselves, and because the interview was in Wired around 1999 or so, the interviewer likened it to afterhours raves and waxed poetic about how awesome it'd be and how we'd be free of corporate etc etc. So the interviewee said "You want to see a TAZ in action, you go look at a toxic-waste dumping 'rave' - where a corporation hires some dubious character to take barrels of waste out into the TAZ that is the open ocean and just throw it over the side. That's the destiny of a TAZ, not some hippy vision of freedom and egalitarianism." Of course, I'm butchering the quote, but gimme a break, I read it like 7 years ago.

    Anyhow, the point of this exasperatingly long-winded anecdote is that things like youtube, which promise freedom and creativity for all will always end up used for evil for the same reason as the TAZ - because freedom is nice and everything, but money trumps all. And the money will drive a wedge of mistrust between us all.
  • by subl33t ( 739983 ) on Monday September 18, 2006 @04:46PM (#16133467)
    "...actors as members of the public, and fiction as fact."

    It sounds like big media don't want amateurs moving in on their territory.

  • by revery ( 456516 ) <> on Monday September 18, 2006 @04:53PM (#16133514) Homepage
    An article submitted by an "anonymous" user purporting to be about the authenticity of web content and art vs advertisement, but instead linking back to a site that makes most of its money from advertisements, product reviews, and page views....

    I don't know about you, but I'm a little ironied out...
  • Entertainment (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Apocalypse111 ( 597674 ) on Monday September 18, 2006 @04:59PM (#16133567) Journal
    I don't think that anyone will really care (much) if the content they're viewing on youtube or Google video or whatever else is out there is an advertisement or not - as long as it is entertaining. That's the whole point behind advertising, trying to keep your target audience entertained long enough to maybe get an ad in edgewise. Youtube is chock full of amusing little adverts that I watch to entertain myself. Heck, even if its not blatant advertising or bashing, as long as I get a chuckle or a "That was awesome!" from it, then the point is made. If the advertising people are doing their homework and learning to take advantage of a new medium, then kudos to them, as long as it stays entertaining.

    So please, ad people, continue bringing us your Wazzaaaaaa's and your Geico Gekkos and your dancing transforming cars, and whatever else you can think of, blatant or not. Make me laugh. Make me yell. Make me think about buying your products, or of discontinuing service with your competitors. I will continue to temper my decisions with research and past experiences as my guides, but if you have a truely superior product or service to offer, then I will appreciate a truely superior ad campaign to tell me of it.
  • Re:hmm (Score:2, Insightful)

    by aliendisaster ( 1001260 ) on Monday September 18, 2006 @05:01PM (#16133591)
    It didnt generate any profit. However, it did give this unknown actress her 15 minutes of fame. I dont think its really about lonelygirl. I think its really about what the next ones going to do. Soon, the internet videos that all the lil kiddies love to watch are going to be filled with product placement just like the full length movies.
  • by RexRhino ( 769423 ) on Monday September 18, 2006 @05:07PM (#16133640)
    The people with money and power (either directly, or government apointed 'civil servants' who have defacto ownership - essentially state capitalists) are already living in a total autonomy zone. The people with money and power do what they like, when they like, and don't have to worry about any law because it doesn't apply to them.

    Total Autonomous Zones are about giving the common people the same freedom that the rich and powerful already enjoy. Dumping in the oceans you say? Already happens nowadays, without any restrictions, so long as you are rich and powerful enough, or you are a government. And big corporations, or government officials, already engage in FUD campaigns both on and off line, without any restrictions.

    All laws and regulations are laws and regulations designed to restrict the poor, or those who are less politically powerful (in a political economy, effectively the same as the poor).
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Monday September 18, 2006 @05:10PM (#16133664) Homepage

    Most of the content on YouTube is either pirated, marketing material, or total crap.

    Which is a real problem. YouTube is starting to have the problems Napster did, with lawsuits from content owners cropping up every few days. Legitimate ones, too. Putting someone else's music on someone else's video and redistributing it is not original work. Not even close.

    YouTube is starting to deal with this. "Removed for terms of service violation" messages are showing up more frequently. But that cuts into their free content supply.

    So what's going up now? Marketing material. All ads, all the time. Music videos this week, with the Warner deal.

    Already, more than half the YouTube screen space is third-party ads anyway. And YouTube is signed up with everybody. Watch a YouTube page load stall while "", "", "", "", "" and "" ("an end-to-end marketing application used for analyzing customer interactions and segmenting and monetizing audience members") all are read. For one page.

    YouTube is not the next Google. YouTube is the next

  • Cynicism abounds (Score:2, Insightful)

    by anachattak ( 650234 ) on Monday September 18, 2006 @05:12PM (#16133687)
    This isn't really all that new. I think things like Lonelygirl (and going back to the Blair Witch Project (marketing disguised as authentic recorded experiences)) are making people more cynical about what they see in general. Every time I see something that looks "authentic" on YouTube (or anywhere else for that matter), I'm inclined to doubt its true source. Maybe it's better that, by finding out there's so much "fake" information out there, we don't just blindly believe everything we see. But in a way, it's also a sad commentary on what mass media and the marketing engine have done to the dissemination of true information for worthwhile purposes. I guess as long as there's a buck to be made.....
  • by bunions ( 970377 ) on Monday September 18, 2006 @05:15PM (#16133706)
    > Total Autonomous Zones are about giving the common people the same freedom that the rich and powerful already enjoy

    Right, but the guy's point was that these zones would always be co-opted, and that while living in a society of law is kind of a pain in the ass at times, it's the citizens only protection against larger, more powerful entities such as corporations, and that the desire for autonomous zones is a nice idea but in practice amounts to suicide.
  • So What (Score:2, Insightful)

    by TheDawgLives ( 546565 ) <hPERIODttp://www ... .org minus punct> on Monday September 18, 2006 @05:18PM (#16133726) Homepage Journal
    Who says we can't enjoy ads? I don't view You Tube as a "home video only" site as much as a "if this video is interesting I'll watch it" site. Personally, I don't care who created the content, if it's good, I'll consume it.
  • Re:Just YouTube? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Saeger ( 456549 ) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (jllerraf)> on Monday September 18, 2006 @05:21PM (#16133757) Homepage
    That was my takeaway message as well -- not the expected frauds, but that Samsung managed to get the video pulled so easily.

    It's not suprising in the least that lame stealth marketing will eventually worm its influence wherever it can. The only real fix for the "unauthentic slimeball problem" is a reputation system that works.
  • Analogue on TV? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by 955301 ( 209856 ) on Monday September 18, 2006 @05:21PM (#16133761) Journal
    Isn't this more or less the same as the "news reports" on television which are actually paid for advertisements? I mean, sure they have more license to mislead since there isn't a broadcasting company vetting the commercials for legal implications, but it's still deceptive multimedia.

    Someone's post related this to piracy on the seas, or dumping toxis sludge when noone was around to spot them, but youTube is bound to be a bit different - this sludge isn't sludge until someone views it, at which point it can be demoted as disinformation. At that point, this slashdot posting would be as significant as a posting about a troll writing a misleading comment.

    So give it 6 months and this story will only have historic significance.
  • Re:Who cares? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Chris Burke ( 6130 ) on Monday September 18, 2006 @05:22PM (#16133762) Homepage
    It was probably based on complaints and testing. If it was completely made up, it wouldn't rise in popularity. It's like stereotypes - you might not like them, but there's SOME basis in fact. Or else it would never catch on.

    No, stereotypes are usually based in total ignorance, and catch on because others are also completely ignorant and don't know any better.

    Similarly, the conclusion that "if it was completely made up, it wouldn't rise in popularity" is also falacious. I think the vast majority of entries at would disagree with you.
  • Re:Phew... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by brianosaurus ( 48471 ) on Monday September 18, 2006 @05:36PM (#16133869) Homepage
    The freedom is exactly why you need to treat it with skepticism. The lies on the Internet don't have to filter through the editors at the paper or the censors on TV. They go up right beside the truth, and have often tricked the "real" news agencies.

    But that's a good thing. If you get practice with reality checks reading the harmless absurdities posted in /. threads, you're much better prepared to catch the lies told by our newspapers, TV personalities, and current Presidents.

    I agree about keeping the FCC off the Tubes. Their silly regulations make public broadcast of "bad words" a luxury for the super-rich. And did you know that FCC fines are tax deductable? So fucking bogus.
  • Re:Libel/Slander (Score:5, Insightful)

    by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Monday September 18, 2006 @05:41PM (#16133898)
    Says who? If I want to take my phone and snap it in half and post a video of it, there's no reason I shouldn't be free to do so. The article states: "According to some reports, Samsung says the phone must have been artificially rigged to snap." Wow, that's an air-tight case if ever I've seen one. The article continues: "The video has now been removed from YouTube. Whose agenda does this video serve?" Now I will ask an easier question, who's agenda does pulling the video serve? The take-home here is that YouTube pulled the video because Samsung didn't like it.

    If youtube gives in to every narrow interest that wants something pulled, it will definitely lose its edge and some of its market share.

  • by jd ( 1658 ) <> on Monday September 18, 2006 @05:45PM (#16133921) Homepage Journal
    There are exceptions. Linux is an exception, because it doesn't matter what agenda any individual has, everyone else has the right to pervert that agenda to suit themselves, within the limits of the license. Lordi is an exception, because the money-grubbing pundits at the Eurovision Song Contest found it hard to argue with a hoard of demonic creatures - even if they were from Finland.

    However, most attempts to create exceptions on any kind of large scale have (so far) been corrupted to the point where they cease to be freedoms and enslave those who embrace them. Indeed, there are good reasons to believe that freedom of the individual enslaves the collective, and freedom of the collective enslaves the group, that you cannot be simultaneously a free individual AND a member of a free society. There are also good reasons - totally independently of money - for believing that both extremes are unstable. As soon as one segment becomes more free than another, or more influential than another, there will be a natural drift of power away from those with less and towards those with more. Eventually, neither the individuals nor the collective will be free.

    You will never, ever see an introverted, non-judgemental, empathic, intellectually exploratory, emotionally self-sufficient President of America. Geeks make up about 10% of the population, and socially-conscious geeks probably make about 2-3%. That 3% probably understands the dynamics of the world better than the other 97%, but their total influence is a big, fat zero. It's not even remotely close to even their proportion in society. This is in part because they're far too busy doing things they consider important, but it still means that their "freedoms" are dictated by some other group, which makes it more a permission than a freedom.

    Having said that, nobody has yet developed a workable alternative, including the intellectually exploratory and socially conscious, suggesting that freedom will remain a mere delusion for a long time yet. In the example in the parent post, power will naturally drift into the hands of those who would dump toxic waste (it's cheap) or despoil a place to gain an advantage (political or economic expediency). It's mostly about money, just not entirely about money. It's also about what makes a person good at what they do, and why that eliminates a large fraction of the populace from ever having any meaningful say.

  • by RexRhino ( 769423 ) on Monday September 18, 2006 @06:02PM (#16134032)
    Car safety laws are designed to maintain the oligarchy of large automotive companies... They were pushed for by the big auto companies in order to make automobile development as capital intensive as possible, thereby locking out smaller competition. Prior to car safety regulation, people were not any more likely to die in an auto accident than they are now, and there were something close to 100 American auto companies. After the consolidation of the big 3, the only "new" auto companies to compete on the U.S. market have been large foriegn companies (who are essentially one of the big established players in their own country). Even now, the U.S. keeps a lot of European small cars out of the U.S. market by insane safety regulations (which is why you can't buy a tiny little fuel efficient peugot or citron something similiar in the U.S.)

    In the case of Tobacco and Liquor advertising laws, they also help the established players. New companies, smaller companies, need advertisment to compete with larger companies (which are already ubiquitous, so they don't need advertising). Advertising laws are a barrier to market for small companies, where as the large companies can afford to sponser a formula 1 racing team and have their logo all on TV (essentially skirting the law).

    If you look at ANY regulation that is passed, with the exception of regulation that is essentially already a social moor (such as laws against murder, rape, etc.), they are designed for the benfit of powerful economic interests.
  • by bunions ( 970377 ) on Monday September 18, 2006 @06:13PM (#16134123)
    Oh come on.

    > Prior to car safety regulation, people were not any more likely to die in an auto accident than they are now

    Seat belts don't save lives, eh? Ralph Nader was just a tool of the auto industry? Big Tobacco engineered the ban on cigarette advertising on TV as a clever ruse to lock out the smaller producers, who through some nebulous market forces are unable to sponsor racing teams? Standard Oil was broken up because it ... well, I don't know, but I'm sure you have a tinfoil hat answer for that one too.

    I'll agree that in general, laws are written by the rich for the rich, but there are also some that are written for the little guy by good legislators. If that wasn't the case, there'd be no such thing as a class action suit, no such thing as OSHA, no anti-trust laws (ok, well there practically aren't any more, but you know what I mean), etc.

    Taking a position that ALL laws favor the rich with NO EXCEPTIONS is simply ridiculous.
  • Re:hmm (Score:4, Insightful)

    by PhiRatE ( 39645 ) on Monday September 18, 2006 @06:54PM (#16134394)
    You fool! Don't you reaise that nobody does *anything* unless they're making money from it? artists wouldn't paint, musicians wouldn't record, nobody would do anything. Without the all-powerful profit motive we would all be vacant-eyed lumps of nothing being eaten alive by our own shoelaces!! all hail the RIAA, bless their little cotton socks, lest we be faced with a world bereft of art!
  • by bunions ( 970377 ) on Monday September 18, 2006 @07:49PM (#16134675)
    So you're with the other guy, the one who insists that Big Tobacco really doesn't at all mind not being able to advertise on TV and plastering their products with "WARNING: THIS PRODUCT WILL KILL YOU"? The one who contends that the fight the auto companies put up against mandatory seat belts was somehow a ruse and they really wanted them all the time so that they could somehow use this to drive out smaller car companies?

Life in the state of nature is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. - Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan