Speaking on day three of the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity 2015, David Drummond, senior vice president, corporate development and chief legal officer, and Victoria Grand, director of policy strategy, Google, made a plea to advertising, media and marketing professionals, to 'tell people what's cool to post on the internet' to stop videos that promote violence.
Drummond started by talking about the movie The Interview. He said, "Sony Pictures called us and asked us whether we'd show the movie on our platforms. They'd called others, and they had turned them down. We felt it was worth it. We didn't want one country to dominate (and decide) what people should watch. Our mission is to make world's information accessible, even if it is Seth Rogen movies. Whether it's North Korea, the ISIS or whatever posted, the web is a reflection of our world."
Grand explained, "The internet has made information accessible to millions of people. Whether it's India or Iceland or Cannes or Ivory Coast, people can get access to information because of the Web. Maybe before getting here you shared an update on Facebook. Or you're tweeting about this session. Or you're doing something else. But, this is only possible because of the power of being connected."
Drummond added, "In 2002, 650 million people were on the internet. When we launched YouTube (in 2005), one billion people had access to the internet. Now, we think everyone is connected, but the truth is only two billion are. With the world's population at seven billion, five billion still don't have access. But, with smartphones and their advent, we are going to see more connected too. We have been fortunate to bring the same experience to everyone ever since we launched Google in 1998. We don't charge fees for stuff like Maps, Gmail etc. A lot of this is possible through the power of advertising. In China, people can read newspapers for free on the street. It's a great initiative, but it (China) is controlling what people can read. The internet is the ultimate market place for the new."
Grand then explained the other side of what Google has had to face. "We have had many collisions. We've taken off search in China. YouTube Offline was taken off in Turkey for 67 days prior to their elections. In Pakistan, three million people have not had access to YouTube after one video that was released in the country," she said.
And added, "A billion people come to YouTube every month. Screens may have shrunk but the power to bring people (to them) has increased. Now you don't need to be a government, media house or anyone powerful to be watched. An average citizen can post content."
She supported her statement with an example of Jamal Edwards, who has become a multi-millionaire through a YouTube channel.
Drummond then showed a video, which is the most viewed on YouTube ever. The video still gets a million views every day, she explained.
Grand added, "It's our responsibility to allow what should be on the platform. We make a decision. Some of the earliest videos we took down were porn videos. While porn exists on the internet, the founders didn't want this to hide other things. The same stance was taken on nudity."
The duo then spoke about instances where the team had to take a call where videos were to be taken down or kept on YouTube.
The first example was of the song 'Blurred Lines'.
Grand explained, "The video exposed breasts. We thought whether we should take it or not. This is acceptable in France, but not in Korea. We kept in the end but did age-restrict it."
While YouTube let the song stay, the platform didn't allow the trailer of the movie Nymphomaniac to. Grand said, "The trailer had sex scenes in it. While there was an artistic connect, we had to draw the line somewhere."
After showing a few 'home made' videos, the next case was that of an authorised nurse called Betty.
Drummond explained, "She had provided a step by step video of how people can end their lives. We wondered whether we can assist people end their lives in a non-painful manner even when they're in pain. We removed it. Suicide is the number one reason for boys' death in the world. So based on that Betty had to go."
The duo spoke about reasons for keeping videos from the Ukrainian riots. When the government had banned media from covering it, there needed to be a 'fair scene', they reasoned.
Next up was a video from the 'Charlie Hebdo' incident. It showed a terrorist shoot a cop from close quarters.
Drummond said, "The incident was shot by a person who was risking his own life while filming it. After contemplating what to do with it, we banned it in France, but have kept it available everywhere else."
Grand then spoke about the ISIS. "It is confronting us with content. We see a lot of these videos. There's a video of James Foley being beheaded. CBS' YouTube channel uploaded the video with a description and cut the video just before the act. There's another video on from an unknown video channel, which shows the act as well as the aftermath. We had to take that down," said the director of policy strategy at Google.
Drummond noted, "We want to see less violence. Most of us want to see fun stuff like puppies online. It's not about censorship. We do not think censorship will help. We think there's a better way. We need to stand up to it. Drowning out (content) is not an option."
A project created by Dan Savage was in focus next, one which looks to inspire hope for young people facing harassment.
Drummond surmised, "You're (the advertising, media and marketing industry) the most gifted storytellers. You tell people what's cool and often make them change. All of us have a responsibility. We can work together to get this done. Right now we are living at a time when humanity is connected. It's never been easier to tell a story."