YouTube’s New Commenting System Leads to ASCII Porn and Other Woes

By Amy Castor
November 26, 2013

YouTube’s new commenting system, which went into effect two weeks ago, isn’t going so well. Intended to stimulate civil, even engaging conversation, the changes have instead sparked a proliferation of spam, including links to ads and virus sites, annoying stick figures and pornographic ASCII art.

On November 7, the video site, owned by Google, began requiring users to sign in through Google+ before commenting on videos. The integration brought an outcry unhappy users upset about losing their anonymity. Even the founder of YouTube purportedly questioned why he needed a Google+ account to comment on a video.

Yet, YouTube maintained the integration was part of an effort to clean up the site’s unwieldy comment system. The site has long been home to some of the most witless, brainless and inane comments on the web. YouTube wrote about the upcoming changes in September in a blog post titled, “We hear you; Better commenting coming to Youtube.”

Some changes gave users more tools for moderation. But others encouraged rampant bad behavior. The old YouTube system limited comment length and disallowed hyperlinks. But with those restrictions now lifted, a proliferation of nonsense has taken hold of the site.

“People are posting entire books. They are posting entire movie scripts. They are posting 5,000 character ASCII arts of genitalia and swastikas and other offensive things,” said one popular user in a video, protesting the changes and begging YouTube to “please, please, fix this.”

One of the more amusing campaigns against the change comes in the form of “Bob is Building an Army.” You can’t go anywhere on YouTube now without seeing a ASCII art of Bob with his tanks and helicopter accompanied by the text, “Bob is building an army. This tank and Bob are against Google+. Copy and paste this all over YouTube.”

The comment problem has gotten so out of hand that even Swedish gamer PewDiePie (16 million viewers) chose to disable his comments until YouTube pulls itself together. His videos, he wrote, are being overrun with “links to virus sites, advertisers, self-advertisers, spam, copy and paste pics of dogs.” He added he did not mind the dogs so much.

YouTube received so many complaints that it posted an update on its blog Monday, saying it was working hard to remedy things. The site says it will be coming out with changes that will make it easier to spot bad links and impersonations and detect ASCII art. It also says it plans to change “how long comments are displayed.”

Meanwhile, YouTube users can only wait and hope YouTube gets its comment situation straightened out soon. In the meantime, despite the massive unhappiness the integration with Google+ has caused, YouTube has no plans undo it.