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Google CEO Sundar Pichai said in an interview with "Axios on HBO" that YouTube is improving, but acknowledged the video service doesn't ensure the overall quality users have come to expect from its search and other services.

Why it matters: YouTube is probably the toughest issue facing Google right now, amid allegations it is fostering hate, enabling pedophiles and spreading misinformation.

"Look, we aren't quite where we want to be."
— Pichai

The interview aired Sunday, but was filmed before the company's most recent scandals and its most recent changes, though Pichai alluded to the changes that were announced last week.

We, you know, we rank content based on quality. And so we are bringing that same notion and approach to YouTube so that we can rank higher quality stuff better and really prevent borderline content. Content which doesn't exactly violate policies, which need to be removed, but which can still cause harm.
— Sundar Pichai, to Axios on HBO

Driving the news: Last week, the company announced three changes along those lines: prohibiting videos that espouse one group as superior to another, changing which videos are recommended to exclude more "borderline content," and limiting monetization for creators who frequently push the boundaries of YouTube's rules.

  • At the same time, the company came under fresh fire for its handling of Steven Crowder, a popular conservative YouTube host who frequently used racial and homphobic insults against Vox journalist Carlos Maza.
  • On Tuesday, following an investigation, YouTube said Crowder's comments — while "hurtful" — didn't violate company policy. A day later, following an outcry, Google suspended Crowder from the partner program that allows advertising, saying he engaged in "a pattern of egregious actions has harmed the broader community."

In the interview, Pichai declined to give YouTube a grade on its work, but acknowledged the company has a tougher time determining video quality than it does with search.

The bottom line: "It's a hard computer science problem," Pichai said.

  • "It's also a hard societal problem because we need better frameworks around what is hate speech, what’s not, and how do we as a company make those decisions at scale, and get it right without making mistakes."

Go deeper: Check tomorrow’s Login our daily tech newsletter, for more from our exclusive interview with Pichai. Sign up here.

Go deeper

German elections: After close result, jockeying to replace Merkel begins

Data: Preliminary results from German Federal Returning Officer; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD) pulled off a come-from-behind victory in Sunday’s elections, 10 seats ahead of the Christian Democrats (CDU), which failed to finish top for the first time in 16 years.

State of play: SPD leader Olaf Scholz has said he’ll seek to form a government, but so too has Armin Laschet, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s successor as CDU leader.

2 hours ago - Health

Biden gets COVID-19 booster shot on live television

President Biden received a Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine booster shot on live television on Monday, while also urging Americans to get vaccinated.

Driving the news: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week recommended Pfizer booster shots for millions of people, including those 65 years and older and individuals at high-risk of severe COVID-19.

John Hinckley, who shot Reagan, wins unconditional release

John Hinckley Jr. sitting on the back seat of a car in 1981. Photo: Bettmann/Getty Images

A federal judge on Monday approved the unconditional release of John Hinckley Jr., who tried to assassinate former President Reagan in 1981.

State of play: U.S. District Court Judge Paul L. Friedman in Washington ruled that Hinckley can be freed from all court supervision in 2022 if he remains mentally stable and continues to follow rules that were imposed on him after he was released from a Washington mental health facility in 2016 to live in Virginia, AP reports.