Continued from page 1

Fortunately for free speech, Google does realize there is a problem. At a meeting last month at the Republican National Convention, Google CEO Eric Schmidt told a group of conservative bloggers that YouTube has indeed been the target of flag spam.

“We don’t know how to solve it right now,” he told me afterward.

Two suggestions for you, Mr. Schmidt:

1.) Make sure that the moderators appointed to review complaints are politically diverse. This makes sense because in a lot of cases, something that is offensive to one person may not be to someone else.

For the sake of public debate, it makes sense to err on the side of free speech in these situations. A politically balanced moderation system will help with that.

2.) Keep a record of what things people flag. My guess is that perpetual flagging abusers always flag the same types of videos.

The more a user flags specific types of videos, downgrade the value of his/her complaints.

Implementing these safeguards (plus some real transparency on how the moderation process works) will greatly reduce the abuse of YouTube’s content flagging system, and put an end to the not-quite inaccurate perception that YouTube is more friendly to liberals than conservatives.

More important, it will boost public confidence in the Internet as the best means of engaging in the political debate.

Matthew Sheffield is a Web consultant and creator of E-mail: