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Alex Webb

The Terrible Timing of YouTube's Notre-Dame Snafu

Google’s automated tools displayed content about the fire that a human never would have allowed. This is catnip to regulators.

Toxic content is still a problem.

Toxic content is still a problem.

Photographer: ZAKARIA ABDELKAFI/AFP/Getty Images

Almost instantly after the sparks ignited at Notre-Dame de Paris on Monday evening, footage of the flames proceeding to swallow the cathedral’s iconic spire spread through social media. And whenever a disaster becomes international news, as we’ve seen time and again, a Silicon Valley mishap is sure to follow close behind.

This time, it was YouTube’s turn to drop the ball. But the timing was particularly inauspicious, as tech regulation edges closer to becoming part of the statute book in Europe.