Joseph Gordon-Levitt​: YouTube, Instagram are 'net negative' for creativity

The HitRecord founder says the companies' business models focus on the wrong things, like fame and subscriber numbers.

Abrar Al-Heeti Technology Reporter
Abrar Al-Heeti is a technology reporter for CNET, with an interest in phones, streaming, internet trends, entertainment, pop culture and digital accessibility. She's also worked for CNET's video, culture and news teams. She graduated with bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Though Illinois is home, she now loves San Francisco -- steep inclines and all.
Expertise Abrar has spent her career at CNET analyzing tech trends while also writing news, reviews and commentaries across mobile, streaming and online culture. Credentials
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Abrar Al-Heeti
2 min read
Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Joseph Gordon-Levitt has some issues with YouTube's and Instagram's business models. 

Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

Joseph Gordon-Levitt has some strong thoughts about YouTube and Instagram . The actor and director said Wednesday that the platforms are a "net negative" for human creativity. 

"This business model is bad for people's creativity, especially young people," Gordon-Levitt said at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco. "If you're setting out to make a short film, for example, and you already have on your mind, 'What's going to get me the most likes, followers, subscribers, etc.,' that's not the creative process that's going to make you the most happy as a creative person." 

Gordon-Levitt is the founder of HitRecord, an online community where people collaborate on creative projects ranging from film to music to writing.

While plenty of beautiful content and communities exist on YouTube and Instagram, Gordon-Levitt said, he has an issue with business models that offer "free" services in exchange for "the right to conduct mass surveillance" and apply machine-learning algorithms to massive data sets for the benefit of third-party advertisers.

"That's a basic business model that the world should get off of entirely," he said. "We shouldn't be monetizing software or businesses that way."

Gordon-Levitt is, on the other hand, a fan of Netflix's business model. He says he appreciates the direct relationship between the customer and the service, with the company collecting data to give viewers content they like. 

"I'm all for using data to accomplish a goal that the user has signed up for," he said. "It's when the user is being subjected to these algorithms not in their interest, but in the interest of some third party behind the curtain -- that's where you get into danger."

Another company Gordon-Levitt is a fan of: Apple . The actor is set to star in the Apple TV Plus show Mr. Corman, a drama series about an elementary school teacher in Los Angeles. 

"Apple has a history of making the best creative tools ever," he said. "That's exactly who I want to be connecting with."

Neither Instagram nor YouTube immediately responded to a request for comment.