Managing YouTube on Your Network in 2016

Since we released LiveStream 5 in 2014 YouTube’s changed a lot. This affects how we approach content filtering and safety with Youtube.

YouTube have removed some safety tools and added more sophisticated ones. They’ve also doubled-down on protecting users’ privacy with encryption.

How schools use YouTube has also evolved. It’s become a vital teaching tool. The wealth of quality educational content means it’s no longer as simple as blocking the whole website for young kids.

The bottom line is YouTube wants to move all of your content controls into the YouTube ecosystem, rather than allowing for any local control inside your network.

If you’re in charge of managing access to YouTube’s content for a company or a school, here are the changes you need to know about.

Say Goodbye to YouTube for Schools

YouTube for Schools was a very useful system, especially for early-age schools. It allowed you to create a unique key for your school and append it to YouTube requests on your network for identification. Any requests tagged with the school’s ID would:

  1. Block any non-educational videos and;
  2. Enforce a whitelist for unblocking any non-educational videos deemed okay by school staff

Alas, this kind of request adaptation isn’t compatible with YouTube’s mission to encrypt all traffic between users and their website so, as of this year, they’re discontinuing it.

“Surely, they’ve replaced it with something else?”. They have indeed…

Say Hello to Restricted YouTube Access

If you’re a school and you need to enact some granular control over individual videos, YouTube made these new tools for you. The catch is that it assumes your school has a Google Apps for Education (or Work) domain where every user on your network has a personal google account.

If you do have a Google Apps domain or are planning to implement one, read on. Otherwise you can skip to the next section.

With users logged on to your Google Apps domain you can apply one of 4 permission levels to them:

  • Strict Restricted YouTube access — Enabled by default only when you choose the option “restrict content for logged-in users in your organization”.
  • Moderate Restricted YouTube access — Users can only watch restricted and approved videos. This offering is similar to the Restricted Mode setting in the YouTube app and offers a larger range of videos than the Strict offering.
  • Unrestricted YouTube access — Users can browse all of YouTube when signed-in even if you’ve also set network-level restrictions.
  • Can approve videos — You can designate individuals or organizational units to approve videos so that signed-in users in their organization can watch them.

This is all controlled via the Google Apps admin console for your domain. It’s about as fleixble as it gets considering YouTube doesn’t have a (public) content classification system.

Restricting YouTube via DNS

For the large majority of schools which don’t have a Google account for every student, there’s still a way to maintain some control here, albeit with a broader brush. It works in exactly the same way as Google’s safe search enforcement method.

The idea is that you create some aliases on your network’s local DNS server which will redirect all traffic to a version of the website(s) that enforces a level of content filtering by default and which can’t be changed by end users.

If you’re running a Windows DNS server you can create some DNAME records like this:

  1. Create new (primary) Forward Lookup Zones, in your DNS role, for:

  2. Within each new zone, open the Action menu and select “Other new records …” select DNAME. Leave the "Alias name" field blank and set the "FQDN for target domain” field to (include the trailing full-stop but not the quotes). Click OK and then Done.

    Alternatively, Moderate Restriction can be enforced with

  3. Test it out by visiting Scroll to the bottom of the page and you’ll see a menu indicating that Restricted Mode is On.

Google kindly provides these tools for network admins, but most websites don't. If you need a straight-forward way to manage access to the rest of the web, checkout LiveStream and LiveAir.