Alex Winter's 'The YouTube Effect' Documentary Review: Where Did It All Go Wrong?

The Youtube Effect documentary by Director Alex Winter

Hate sells, and YouTube's algorithms amplify that message but the video platform didn't set out to do that. Director Alex Winter, best known for BILL & TED’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE, directs the feature documentary, THE YOUTUBE EFFECT. Now available on streaming, the documentary digs into the birth of the video-sharing platform and its evolution into a divisive and radical influence.

Winter (BILL & TED FRANCHISE, SHOWBIZ KIDS, THE PANAMA PAPERS, ZAPPA) explores the rise of YouTube, a video-sharing website that started out as a video aggregator for stupid human tricks that quickly caught on and was bought by Google for millions of dollars and stocks. Winter features interviews with YouTube’s biggest influencers such as Ian Hecox, Loann Kaji, Ryan Kaji, Shion Kaji of Ryan's World, Talia Lavin, Anthony Padilla, Andy Parker, Brianna Wu, Natalie Wynn, and social media professionals such as former Google executive Susan Wojcicki.

The origin story is the most fascinating about the documentary. Three young men launched the next big thing, and YouTube cofounder Steve Chen talks about the genesis of the idea as an innocent way to share funny videos. Interestingly enough he stays away from criticizing Google’s recent history with the platform. Perhaps because he’s still a shareholder of the company.

While THE YOUTUBE EFFECT doesn't break ground by exposing the troubling aspect of the video-sharing platform, the experts Winter speaks to sheds light on why toxicity sells. Aside from YouTube's algorithms pushing controversial videos, the main reason is a sense of community which makes perfect sense. Individuals with fringe ideas mostly kept to their circle of friends before the internet, but the worldwide web allowed those groups to spread and gather online to radicalize and embolden them further with the advent of social media.

In the documentary, former Google CEO Susan Wojcicki who was involved with the creation of the search engine conglomerate defends the company's handling of their video platform. Wojcicki is totally oblivious to YouTube's negative aspects and its push of click-bait videos.  

THE YOUTUBE EFFECT will no doubt anger those already troubled by the platform's negative influence. Before social media and the internet, the problem was magazines and ads which sold us beauty and perfect bodies that contributed to body image issues for young women.  Those are now amplified to a dangerous level as well. 

YouTube is not all bad. It's still great for researching how-to and DIY tips but it comes at a price. As the saying goes, we can't have nice things because there are always those who ruin it for others.

Gale Anne Hurd (Valhalla Entertainment, MANKILLER, THE TERMINATOR Trilogy and The Walking Dead) serves as one of the producers of the documentary. 

THE YOUTUBE EFFECT is now available on iTunes, Amazon Prime Video, Google Play, Vudu & more


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