YouTube launches ‘Heroes’ program, encouraging users to flag more content

On Tuesday, YouTube announced a new program that will incentivize users to flag abusive content and contribute video transcriptions, called YouTube Heroes.

The program rewards users with ‘points’ for doing one of three actions – accurately flagging content, contributing closed captions/translations, and answering questions on the YouTube Help Forum. As users earn more points, they can level up from 1 to 5, each level unlocking new perks and abilities. Perks include beta testing new products, direct communication with YouTube staff, a tool to mass flag videos, and even an invite to a future ‘Heroes Summit’ event.

The first batch of YouTube Heroes
The first batch of YouTube Heroes program members. Photo: Google.

YouTube rolled out tools for crowd-sourced captioning in 2014, but the feature hasn’t received a great deal of use. This new program gives that feature much more visibility in their quest to make online video more accessible – including two new tabs in every user’s Creator Studio for Transcriptions and Translations.

The flagging portion of the YouTube Heroes program is a continuation of a program that has existed since 2012 as well – the Trusted Flagger (or ‘Deputy’) Program, which provided consistently accurate flaggers with an arsenal of tools to streamline the flagging process. The Trusted Flagger program was relatively nondescript and private, however; the public was never aware of what sort of perks Trusted Flaggers had.

Inside the YouTube Heroes dashboard
A screenshot within the YouTube Heroes dashboard. Photo: Google.

Many prominent YouTube creators have expressed fear about the program, worried about a potential for abuse. YouTube’s announcement video currently has a 98% dislike ratio, with just under 200,000 dislikes.

The program is not as scary as it sounds. All flags are reviewed by YouTube staff, the same way they’ve always been. No member of the YouTube Heroes program has access to take down videos or issue strikes themselves. The program simply encourages users to flag inappropriate content as they see it. Users of higher program levels have access to mass-flagging tools, but even those flags are still reviewed by YouTube staff – we just speculate they have a higher priority status.

“YouTube employees still make the final call on all video removals,” wrote a YouTube Community Manager on the Help Forums. “Videos flagged by YouTube Heroes will not be automatically taken down.”

According to this post on the official YouTube blog, members of the Trusted Flagger/Heroes program have a flagging accuracy of over 90%. This is more than three times the accuracy of standard YouTube users, which is around 30%.

Those interested in the program can find more information and apply here.

Editor’s Note: This story was updated shortly after publication to include more information about the video removal process.