LONDON – Google on Tuesday resisted calls to screen videos before they appeared on YouTube, despite admitting it had been too slow to take down a clip which showed a 25-year-old mother being gang-raped.
The search giant was attacked by Members of Parliament after admitting it was "clearly a mistake" that a video showing the woman being raped was watched 600 times before being removed from YouTube, the video-sharing site it owns.
Giving evidence before a House of Commons select committee, Google's general counsel, Kent Walker, said it would go against the spirit of the internet to require all videos to be screened and resisted calls for tighter regulation of sites like YouTube.
Asked about the site's failure to take down the footage — which showed the mother being sexually assaulted by three boys after her drink had been spiked — more quickly, Mr Walker told MPs: "I do not know exactly what happened but it was a mistake."
The three-minute film is understood to have been viewed about 600 times before it was removed for being in violation of the site's policy on graphic content.
Mr Walker was giving evidence to the Culture, Media and Sport committee, which is investigating the dangers posed by the internet to children.
He told the committee that YouTube's reviewers looked through "a huge amount" of material.
He added that, of the offensive videos that were flagged to the site, more than 50 per cent were removed within half an hour.
"A large majority is removed within an hour," he said.
The evidence came less than a week after a report commissioned by the Prime Minister into the risks posed by the Internet to children concluded that video-sharing sites such as YouTube should commit to taking down violent or explicit videos within a given time.
Mr Walker came under heavy fire from MPs, who said his inability to disclose how many staff were employed by Google to monitor footage flagged on YouTube suggested his defence was "incredible".
"Do you know how absurd you are sounding?" asked Paul Farrelly, the Labour MP for Newcastle-under-Lyme.
Adam Price, the Plaid Cymru MP for Carmathen East and Dinefwr, said that Mr Walker's defence was "deeply objectionable". "It surely shows your system is completely inadequate."
Mr Walker said, however, that it would be "neither efficient not effective" for YouTube to screen the entirety of the content uploaded by its users — about 10 hours of footage every minute — before it was made public.
"That would burden the process of creativity," he said. "You do not have a policeman on every street corner to stop things from happening, you have policemen responding very quickly when things do happen."
Mr Walker also defended the company's decision to respect the Chinese Government's policy of censoring the material on its site, saying there was a balance to be struck between respecting the right free speech and making at least some content available to Chinese users by adhering to the country's laws.