A version of this article first appeared on the YouTube Blog on February 27, 2023.
Equity and inclusion are at the forefront of YouTube’s mission. Upholding it means that our teams are constantly exploring how our norms, practices, and policies may inadvertently create bias and inequity on the platform.
This is why, in 2020, we established a dedicated Racial Justice, Equity, and Product Inclusion team to ensure that the voices of historically underrepresented communities were incorporated early into the development of our products and protocols. Since then, one of the team’s core programs — called the Inclusion Working Group (IWG) — has played a critical role in embedding equity into YouTube’s platform and business.
The IWG helps our employees consider key risks and opportunities during the development of products, processes, and policies.
We created the IWG as a resource to help our employees consider key risks and opportunities during the development of new products, processes, and policies. It consists of a dedicated product inclusion lead, executive sponsors, employee resource group (ERG) representatives, and leaders from across YouTube — including experts in machine learning and responsible AI.
While we have a long way to go, the IWG has been a significant step forward in YouTube’s commitment to driving equality. We also acknowledge the power of sharing our progress, with the hope that it can help inspire others to tackle inequality with us, together.
With that in mind, we’re eager to share three key things that have helped the IWG succeed.
1. Actionable feedback through ongoing partnership
Being user first is core to everything we do at YouTube, and it’s imperative that our users see themselves and their lived experiences reflected in our products and policies.
Delivering on this requires teams to consider equity and inclusion early and often in the development process, so they have time to identify and mitigate risks, and adjust direction when necessary. The IWG makes this possible.
The group partners directly with teams to understand how they plan to use machine learning, whether facets of identity are considered in their products, whether new launches may lead to undue hate and harassment, and more.
Already, we’ve seen the IWG’s contributions help teams improve a range of projects and programs. For example, it directly influenced the creation of new safety protocols for the first-ever all-female broadcast of a Major League Baseball game last summer. The IWG also helped improve how we detect racially insensitive comments on YouTube, prepared our teams to better identify and respond to new forms of online hate, and provided constant advocacy for the safety and diverse representation of Creators in product launches.
2. Cross-functional subject matter expertise with executive buy-in
By design, the IWG gets its strength from its members — a consultative, cross-functional team of professionals that span YouTube’s product areas, varied ERGs, and its executive leadership.
Executive sponsorship is essential to formalize and champion the IWG’s role.
In addition to its members’ vast expertise and experience, executive sponsorship and buy-in are essential to formalize and champion the IWG’s role. The group helps to mitigate risk and improve the overall quality of product launches by assembling voices from across multiple functions and underrepresented groups to consider questions of inclusion.
3. Test, learn, and scale
To date, the IWG has partnered with YouTube teams on over 900 projects. In 2023, the program will expand its coverage to 100% of YouTube’s product teams and range of collaborators. It will also provide guidance on how to prioritize equity across product strategy and to increase visibility among teams. Additionally, the IWG will focus on educating teams by sharing learnings from case studies, research, frameworks, and other content to continue driving scalable ways of thinking equity-first.
While this work will take time and thoughtful discussion, we are motivated by the ways it will benefit the entire YouTube ecosystem for years to come. We acknowledge there is much to do and look forward to sharing more of our progress as we continue this work.