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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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  • by larry bagina ( 561269 ) on Monday September 18, 2006 @04:39PM (#16133382) Journal
    Slashdot users are pretty adept at spotting slashvertisements [slashdot.org] and astrotrufing (better than the slashdot editors, it would seem. Did anyone think "lonelygirl15" was real?
  • hmm (Score:4, Interesting)

    by aleksiel ( 678251 ) on Monday September 18, 2006 @04:40PM (#16133390)
    i'm kinda unclear on how the whole lonelygirl project generated much/any profit.
  • Phew... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by scarlac ( 768893 ) on Monday September 18, 2006 @04:45PM (#16133446) Homepage
    Well It's A Good Thing(tm) that we have TV to tell us what's right and wrong instead of misguiding internet sites...

    Joke aside, the internet is a media like TV and newspapers and should be treated equally: With sceptism.

    The only thing that keeps us away from being puppets of the media is our ability to judge and do a reality check. If you see something "stunning" or amazing - be sure that the first thing you do is disregard it for a moment and don't start telling it to others, since that's when speculation and lies become "the uofficial truth".

    But then again.. if we were all able to tell when the media was lying... I guess there wouldn't be tabloids ;-)
  • Re:Free Sp$$ch (Score:3, Interesting)

    by 1010110010 ( 1002553 ) on Monday September 18, 2006 @04:46PM (#16133458)
    Correct me if I'm wrong, but if I go around bitching about a company with bogus claims of its products' deficiencies, isn't that libel? So why would doing it in video be any better?
  • Re:Just YouTube? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Monday September 18, 2006 @04:46PM (#16133464)
    Especially since YouTube (and the videos on it) never presented themselves as "home movies." Some are, some aren't. It's just a big grabbag, which personally I think is fine. What I actually learned from this story is that YouTube will take down videos at request of companies (Samsung in this case) who feel they have the right to control any depiction of products they make. This in itself is a bias of the system by businesses that don't want you to see certain things.
  • Who cares? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by WiggyWack ( 88258 ) on Monday September 18, 2006 @04:54PM (#16133522) Homepage
    Who cares if the video of snapping a Samsung phone in half is real or not? Even if a rival company paid to have that spot made and distributed, it HAD to come from somewhere. Samsung says it was rigged, but they didn't just invent the fact the phone is cheap. 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.

    What if someone whose Samsung phone broke made that video versus a rival company making it. Would it matter? I don't think so. Because again, SOMEONE had to have problems with that phone breaking. Whether a rival company made and paid for it or the pissed off consumer did it for free, I don't think it matters...

    People get mad about not knowing when they're being advertised to. They shouldn't. Everyone has agendas. Do your research and listen to more than one source.
  • by mpapet ( 761907 ) on Monday September 18, 2006 @04:55PM (#16133536) Homepage
    and most countries do it to their citizens in order to achieve some end.

    Now, companies and people can do it to each other!

    Seriously though, take a step back for a moment and ask yourself a couple of questions:

    1. Why should I trust anything on the site in question? They don't say they are purveyors of trustworthy data. I think the problem is that "trustworthy videos" may not be an expectation they want to meet.

    2. What does anyone gain by visiting the site in question?
  • by Ynsats ( 922697 ) on Monday September 18, 2006 @04:56PM (#16133541)
    Most of the people in the Slashdot community have been "online" for decades now. We have watched the Internet become something so big that a signal entity can't wield enough power to control it any longer. Yet, like all modern entertainment and communication formats, there is a certain amount of deception that takes place. For years people have made the on-going joke that the "girl" with the screen name of "supersexysweet16" is actually some fat guy in his underwear either screwing around or preying on juveniles. Now, we have news organizations like Dateline activly trapping people with deceptive tactics that the police have been using to nab predators for a while.

    Asking the question "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?" at this point in the history of the Internet is just silly and evidence that the "Anonymous Reader" is woefully out of touch with reality and needs to quit being so naive. Deception is everywhere. Even the bum on the street begging for your change may not even be a REAL bum. There are so many deceptive acts taking place out there and if YouTube letting some unscrupulous ad agency post an ad to generate revenue is the biggest worry I have then I'd say I'm doing pretty good.

    In other words, big deal. I'm not going to YouTube to determine what's real and what's not or who's lying to me about what. It's so inconsequential that I don't even care who's going to get sent up the river for such a travesty. I'm going to YouTube to be entertained and even commercials are entertaining at times. Just watch the commercials on the SuperBowl for evidence of that. If someone on YouTube wants to lie to me about it then fine, it's not going to impact my life adversely because I don't believe everything I read, see or hear. Especially if there is only one instance of bad press like the Samsung phone when there are droves of people out there with opinions that are the polar opposite. It's on me if I am so gullible to not see through something as silly as that Samsung video that was posted. It's even worse if I base a consumer decision on such a video and limit my research to just that video. Shame on me for being such a stooge if that were true.
  • by bunions ( 970377 ) on Monday September 18, 2006 @05:17PM (#16133720)
    Dang, forgot to respond to this:

    > All laws and regulations are laws and regulations designed to restrict the poor, or those who are less politically powerful

    Well now, that's patently false. I'll just point you at car safety and tobacco/liquor advertising laws and make my exit.
  • by L7_ ( 645377 ) on Monday September 18, 2006 @05:17PM (#16133722)
    In W. Gibson's latest novel "Pattern Recognition [amazon.com]", there are a series of videos/short films posted anonymously on the internet. Noone knows who is posting them and why; Marketing companies all hunger for a chance to get some of the hype surrounding the posted short videos. I won't ruin the ending for you, but it is a story of marketing types and anonymous artistic video postings.

    This is very applicable to what is happening on YouTube now; self-made work are being fostered by these types of user generated content sites. The problem is the viewer has non idea if those self made works are sponsored by companies, or if they are just 'solo artist in a room somewhere' type of works.
  • by spoonboy42 ( 146048 ) on Monday September 18, 2006 @05:27PM (#16133804)
    Let's be clear, here. Although the creators of lonelygirl wound up being represented by CAA, a professional talent agency, they are nevertheless a bunch of young amateurs. The videos don't promote any product (except for purple monkey hand puppets, maybe), and the only sort of cross-marketing involved is, perhaps, the use of CAA-represented indie bands for background music. All in all the music is pretty unobtrusive and tasteful, and is far from the main point of the videos.

    Lonelygirl is, at its heart, a series about an extremely compelling character, and her video diary makes people feel an intimate connection with her. I have to say, the series was even more enjoyable when one could believe that Bree was a real girl, seriptitiously posting her thoughts, colored by her signature humor and innocence, from her bedroom. Now that she's been "outed" as an actress, the "show" is a little more conventional, but when you're willing to suspend your disbelief, it's still wonderfully fun to watch.

    In short, Lonelygirl is damn good television, except that it's not on television.
  • by KillerCow ( 213458 ) on Monday September 18, 2006 @05:30PM (#16133839)
    This is just an example of the Tragedy of the Commons [wikipedia.org].
  • WHAT?!?!?!?! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Mr. Freeman ( 933986 ) on Monday September 18, 2006 @05:55PM (#16133998)
    You can't believe everything you read/see/hear on the Internet?
    Holy shit, this really is breaking news; I mean, it's not like this has been common sense since the Internet was invented or anything.

    I seriously fail to see how this is news. Entire political campaigns are built on smear advertisements (anyone remember the last election?), and the Internet doesn't even have to comply with any type of law that keeps those smear ads from being worse than they are now; is it any wonder these videos are being put online?
  • by grumbel ( 592662 ) <grumbel+slashdot@gmail.com> on Monday September 18, 2006 @06:56PM (#16134400) Homepage
    How are fake videos any different from fake websites?

    I would say that the difference is that videos have a higher trust level then random websites. Websites themself are a new thing that didn't existed before, so we handle them with some extra care. But for the past 100 or so years we already had cinemas and later TVs to show us video, so we are already familar with them and don't handle them with extra care. Sure, what you have seen on TV or on movies might not have been real, but it was relativly easy to judge the 'reality level'. If the military is showing you how nice war is, its easy to tell that it might be propaganda, if Fox News is showing it, it might not be much difficult either. If advertising is shown on TV it is normally cleary marked. In short, if you see something in the theatre or in TV you know its source and its purpose and can judge it on that basis.

    Youtube however is different, you don't have a source, its anonymous, even more anonymous then a webpage, where IP and 'whois' will often uncover the truth. It however doesn't even stop with that, Youtube videos are also shown out of context, when something is shown on TV you have some information on when it was filmed and such, on Youtube you havn't, you just have the video itself. Often the videos are even cut, incomplete or posted with incorrect description to blur any clear hint to the true origin of the material.

    I don't think this is just a problem with advertisment, since with that you sooner or later still have to get the product name so that you can actually buy the thing and by that you can figure out the source. I think this could turn into a much bigger problem, kind it alters our perception of reality. There are already tons of advertisment videos on Youtube with the ending cut out, so you no longer can easily tell if it is advertisment, some piece of a movie or real video footage of a real event. For example look at this video: Lost Wheel [google.com] What does is show? A real event or what? Could you tell it from the video alone?

    Now that Lost Wheel video of course doesn't show an event of any real importance, so in that case its a non issue. But what about military propagande that sneaks in, while being masked as real footage from the battlefield shoot by a normal soldier? What about cool home-made stunt video that in reality was just a special effect? Kids are already repeating a lot of stuff they see in those videos, that might not exactly get better when the stuff they try to repeat is impossible to begin with. I am not really sure where it is going, but spending some time on Youtube or GoogleVideo can certainly be quite a bit confusing when it comes to judging what of that what you have seen is real and what isn't.

  • Re:Phew... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jvkjvk ( 102057 ) on Monday September 18, 2006 @11:21PM (#16135584)
    Yeah, but outright lies are for amateurs . The pros merely frame their viewpoints in memetic infections with psycho-linguistic technologies. Word choice is obvious enough. There are scales out there that determine the emotional content of well prepared speeches, or the amount the speaker is appealing to non-rational emotional or physical analogies.

    Speaking of the opponent as squeezing one to death, or cutting off ones oxygen or being contained or not having enough space all server to band the group together, as that has been our primary means of defense. We are social animals.

    Tone and delivery, body language, etc. all deliver their own messages to our eagerly awaiting senses, which are trying busily to put all the pieces together and hand (more) coherent stories up the chains.

    Read up on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuro-linguistic_prog ramming [wikipedia.org] for the most applicable aspects of this if you are interested...

  • Re:I am SHOCKED (Score:5, Interesting)

    by KnightMB ( 823876 ) on Monday September 18, 2006 @11:55PM (#16135701)
    It's true there are a lot of fake videos on youtube, but don't let it smear the real ones. I have a video of my daughter on youtube, not because it's fake, but for a real experience of the troubles her mother is causing our family. Because the mother has drained my resources in court, I've setup a donation page hoping that anyone out in the world would be nice enough to donate to the legal fund. YouTube was a good way for a lot of people to see my video and visit my webpage to further my cause or shrug their shoulders and say too bad for her. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ne63cXIUWAA [youtube.com]

I THINK MAN INVENTED THE CAR by instinct. -- Jack Handley, The New Mexican, 1988.