Sarah T. Roberts: YouTube is Not “A Library”

Scholar of library and information management points out the social media site's lack of ethical stewardship of data, respect for users' privacy.

Sarah T. Roberts, UCLA assistant professor of Information Studies, has written a blog post titled, “No, YouTube is not a library – and why it matters,” for her blog, The Illusion of Volition. Commenting on YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki’s comparison of the social media site to “a library,” Roberts writes that libraries – unlike YouTube – “develop principles intended to keep patron privacy… well, private. Laws that govern patron privacy of records vary from state to state, with California having some of the nation’s strongest, and Kentucky and Hawaii being the only two not addressing this issue in state law.”

She also notes that “these principles and protections, as well as a core dedication to the patron herself, make libraries something special, unique, and increasingly fundamentally important in the social fabric. It is all the more important, therefore, that we describe what they are so that we can recognize what they are not – and so we can call foul when others try to co-opt the institution for their own purposes.”

Professor Roberts’ research topics include library and information management, social media and the internet, the digital economy, and the information workforce. She convened a first-ever symposium on “All Things in Moderation: The People, Practices and Politics of Online Content Review – Human and Machine,” at UCLA last year. Recently, she appeared in and served as a consultant for the documentary, “The Cleaners,” which focuses on the plight of online content moderators who scrub the internet for objectionable, violent, and disturbing material.

To read Professor Roberts’ entire post, visit The Illusion of Volition.