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YouTube and Social Good

Hunter is the Director of Product Management at Google.

In 2009 I had the opportunity to visit Baghdad and understand the role of technology in their country’s development. One of the most memorable sentiments came from a teenage girl who told me: “YouTube helps me find out what the world cares about. Before I was limited to just Iraq.” Throughout my career at YouTube, I’ve witnessed people using the platform to develop a shared understanding, to tell their stories, and to change lives -- it’s one of the reasons I am so passionate about our mission.

YouTube is providing access and entertainment to previously disenfranchised audiences. In Florida, Keith Wann is building a national audience from his YouTube comedy. But he’s not your typical comedian -- Keith’s online audience is deaf or hard of hearing, and Keith’s jokes are all delivered in sign language.

Keith’s first language was American Sign Language, as a hearing child of deaf parents. One of his very first videos became wildly popular among the deaf community on YouTube (What does Ice Ice Baby look like in sign language) and helped Keith launch his full time career as a sign language comedian. Millions of views later, he is now renowned in the deaf community and has paved the way for other ASL performers and deaf advocates online. On YouTube, Keith was able to connect with audience members all across the U.S. and start a cross-country Sign Language comedy tour with other ASL performers.

Adrienne Chiusano, a mother of two, is one of Keith’s audience members. Adrienne’s 6-year old daughter is deaf, so there are not a lot of entertainment options for the mother-daughter pair to experience together. Adrienne began watching Keith’s videos and ASL music videos on YouTube with her daughter so they could have a shared entertainment experience. Adrienne and her daughter watch YouTube videos together in close proximity, but online media is also transforming how people across distances can share entertainment.

In Boston, a woman named Jennifer Lebedev, a mother of two and a former classroom teacher started teaching English lessons from her kitchen and posting them on YouTube. At over 30 million views, she now has English students on every continent except Antarctica. Every day she interacts with students from all over the world through messages and comments in addition to her videos. Jennifer has done more than just connect with viewers, she has developed relationships with them. Her viewers are her students, like Sultan from Pakistan, a pharmacist who watches all her videos and comments. And Bahar, an English teacher from Turkey, who uses Jennifer’s lessons to supplement her own and is even in touch with Jennifer’s younger brother, who is currently living in Turkey.

YouTube has become a global living room, a global classroom, and a global town hall. We now live in a world where you and your family and friends can enjoy a great YouTube channel together on a mobile phone, TV, or computer and then send all your favorite videos to loved ones 5,000 miles away where they can watch them instantaneously. We see people all over the world share entertainment, view millions of hours of educational videos, and debate current events through YouTube.

With 72 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute, audiences have access to a huge variety of entertainment at the click of a button. Whether you're looking for an ASL video, a math lesson or just a good laugh, YouTube videos that entertain, educate, or inspire are seemingly unlimited. And that is thanks to the number one ingredient that makes YouTube a success: people.

Like the teenage girl I spoke to in Iraq, I believe that sharing media globally will help us all find and develop a better understanding of the world. Ultimately, I think this will make us all better and more tolerant global citizens.


Hunter Walk focuses on YouTube as a platform for social good, learning and free expression. He views YouTube’s relationship with ‘good’ as supported by three main pillars: Causes & Non Profits; Education; and, finally, Activism and Free Expression. He previously led consumer product management at YouTube, delivering billions of playbacks a day to the world's largest video community. Since joining Google in 2003, he has also managed product and sales efforts for Google's contextual advertising business.

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