Ever notice that little flag icon that underlines YouTube videos? It's part of Google's content reporting system -- clicking it notifies YouTube moderators that the attached video might violate site's community guidelines. The feature has been in place for ages, but it caught some attention last week when the Financial Times reported that British security had been granted special permissions to police YouTube content. Naturally, the online community was concerned: why is a governmental body being allowed to censor online content? Well, it isn't. Google has since explained that UK officials are simply part of YouTube's Trusted Flagger program: 200 or so organizations and individuals (including "fewer than 10" government agencies according to a Wall Street Journal source) with access to advanced flagging tools. These so-called "super flaggers" don't have the ability to manually curate or remove videos, but they can flag up to 20 at once for internal review.
The program has actually been around since October, with more Trusted Flaggers being added periodically. According to the WSJ source, YouTube offered access to the UK's counter-terrorism unit after the agency began flagging videos that violated the site's community guidelines, which ban videos showing dangerous and illegal acts, threats, hate speech and more. British officials say they try to flag videos that violate the UK's Terrorism Act, adding that the burden of judging content as appropriate or inappropriate still lies with YouTube. The program seems to be invite-only, but YouTube users with an eye for the naughty can show their interest on Google's Trusted Flagger support page.