N Is for News: #10YearsofYouTube

May 15, 2015

In June of 2009, a 26-year-old student named Neda Agha-Soltan was shot in the streets of Tehran during a protest over the Iranian presidential elections. Bystanders captured the fatal shooting with their camera phones and used platforms like YouTube to expose the senseless murder to the world.

By the end of that day, international news media picked up the story and began running the images, and the death of Neda Agha-Soltan became one of the most discussed and shared news items around the globe. The three grainy videos of her death proceeded to win the 2009 George Polk Award - the first time the prestigious photo prize was awarded to anonymous sources.

Over the last decade, everyday people - like the bystanders who captured Neda’s death - have changed the way we discover, experience and spread the news. With the proliferation and adoption of digital technology (camera phones, internet access, and social media), people around the globe are now armed with the tools to speak up, speak out, and share what’s happening in their corners of the world, in ways never before possible.

And YouTube is the place millions of people come to learn about and experience these moments every day. Take, for example, the astonishing sight that appeared in the skies over Chelyabinsk, a Russian city just east of the Ural mountains, in February of 2013. What looked like a supernatural force was in fact a rare superbolide meteor traveling at over 40,000 mph, shattering windows, damaging thousands of buildings and injuring more than an estimated 1,000 people. The powerful meteor’s wild ride was captured by dash cams and bewildered passersby, and immediately uploaded to YouTube. The effect? A more than 4,600% increase in YouTube searches for the term “meteor” as compared to the previous month, with users from 190 countries searching for footage of the great ball of fire.

From the U.S. presidential debates in 2007 to the rise of The Arab Spring in 2010, from the Umbrella Revolution of 2014 to the Nepal earthquake of this year -- millions of people all over the globe have turned to YouTube to share their firsthand experiences, perspectives and stories. These videos have redefined the way we understand the news and the connections that exist between ourselves, our communities, our governments, and the world.

Thank you for using YouTube to make and break the news. This is only the beginning.

Because these news videos are a reflection of world events, they may contain violent content or disturbing imagery. Viewer discretion advised.

-- Christine Huang