NERDS

Google’s Grip Tightens Around the Neck of Conservative Views

YouTube, the video streaming service owned by Google, has announced plans to hire more than 10,000 people in 2018 with the goal of “working to address content that might violate our policies.”

Once again, a cerebral prison encloses creative freedom and personal expression. 

In a blog post released on Monday, Susan Wojcicki, the CEO of YouTube, a unit of Google, stressed the need for more “human reviewers” at the company. 

“I’ve seen how our open platform has been a force for creativity, learning, and access to information,” Wojcicki claims, ignoring the numerous incidents where conservatives have been demonetized or censored by having their videos placed on “restricted mode” lists. “I’ve seen how activists have used it to advocate for social change, mobilize protests, and document war crimes.”

“But I’ve also seen up-close that there can be another, more troubling, side of YouTube’s openness. I’ve seen how some bad actors are exploiting our openness to mislead, manipulate, harass or even harm,” she adds. “In the last year, we took actions to protect our community against violent or extremist content, testing new systems to combat emerging and evolving threats. We tightened our policies on what content can appear on our platform, or earn revenue for creators.”

Clearly, the “violent or extremist content” that gets flagged mostly encompasses Conservative and Libertarian voices, as Prager University can attest to when it witnessed its videos being demonetized and placed onto the “restricted mode” list. 

“There is absolutely nothing ‘inappropriate’ about the content of the PragerU videos censored by Google and YouTube; the videos do not contain any profanity, nudity or otherwise inappropriate ‘mature’ content and they fully comply with the letter of YouTube’s Terms of Use and Community Guidelines,” said Marissa Streit, PragerU’s chief executive officer. “It’s clear that someone doesn’t like what we teach and so they intend on stopping us from teaching it. Can you imagine what the world would look like if Google is allowed to continue to arbitrarily censor ideas they simply don’t agree with?” 

It isn’t just those on the right that are censored, however, as YouTube’s policies apparently deem satire, and parody, too extreme for the platform, especially when the parody is aimed at YouTube

“Human reviewers remain essential to both removing content and training machine learning systems because human judgment is critical to making contextualized decisions on content,” Wojcicki wrote in her blog post. “Since June, our trust and safety teams have manually reviewed nearly 2 million videos for violent extremist content, helping train our machine-learning technology to identify similar videos in the future.”

The amount of videos viewed since June is clearly not enough as in late November, the Times of London revealed that YouTube was allowing advertisements on videos containing sexualized imagery of children. The revelation caused big brands such as Adidas, Deutsche Bank, Amazon, and Oreo maker Mondelez, to pull their advertisements from the site. 

Not only that, despite its claims of removing “over 150,000 videos for violent extremism,” YouTube refused to remove videos made by the senior recruiter for al-Qaeda, and Islamic hate preacher, Anwar Al-Awlaki

“We need an approach that does a better job determining which channels and videos should be eligible for advertising,” Wojcicki admitted.

Alas, this does not mean Conservative voices will once again be allowed to make money from the video streaming service as Wojcicki also admitted in her blog post that, YouTube “has begun training machine-learning technology across other challenging content areas, including child safety and hate speech.”

“We understand that people want a clearer view of how we’re tackling problematic content,” the CEO adds. “Our Community Guidelines give users notice about what we do not allow on our platforms and we want to share more information about how these are enforced.”

Of course, linking to YouTube’s Community Guidelines doesn’t help as the policy on “hateful content” is just as undefined as “hate speech.”

The community guideline on “Hateful Content” states: 

Our products are platforms for free expression. But we don’t support content that promotes or condones violence against individuals or groups based on race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, nationality, veteran status, or sexual orientation/gender identity, or whose primary purpose is inciting hatred on the basis of these core characteristics. This can be a delicate balancing act, but if the primary purpose is to attack a protected group, the content crosses the line. 

Although this is incredibly opaque already, in the “Learn More” section, YouTube claims:

There is a fine line between what is and what is not considered to be hate speech. For instance, it is generally okay to criticize a nation-state, but if the primary purpose of the content is to incite hatred against a group of people solely based on their ethnicity, or if the content promotes violence based on any of these core attributes, like religion, it violates our policy.

This means that although it is “generally ok” to criticize a “nation-state,” sometimes it won’t be, because if someone criticizes states that are primarily religious, for example, Mulsim majority countries, that person could be committing “hate speech.” 

Wojcicki also said the company would be taking “aggressive action on comments, launching new comment moderation tools and in some cases shutting down comments altogether.” 

It seems that not even visitors of the site, let alone content creators themselves, are able to escape the ideological gulag. 

Featured Image Via Lederman Studio

Sources: YouTube, YouTube [2], New York Post, New York Post

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Steve O

    December 6, 2017 at 7:07 am

    While almost half the country may fall on the right side of the right/left divide, the bottom line is that not that many people actually care much about ideological bias and the suppression of opposing views. Liberals certainly don’t seem to care if conservative views are censored, and there simply are not enough conservatives who do as well.

    If such was not the case, YouTube would be forced to be fair, or a competitor would emerge to displace them.

    Are conservatives simply resigned to defeat? We need to wake up, because conservatism is now counter-cultural, and WE are the revolutionaries now.

    • zxq9

      December 6, 2017 at 9:06 pm

      I would love to stand up a competitor to YouTube. I would love to parallel the way minds.com is challenging Twitter as an (almost) uncensored alternative. The community uptake at Minds has been fast and activity there is quite lively — on both sides of the ideological divide (an interesting effect). This is, obviously instructive and indicates a strong opportunity.

      BUT

      The technical requirements for a site like YouTube are ENORMOUS. YouTube bled tens of millions every year for almost a decade. Google/Alphabet eventually got it right, but that was only on the back of almost monopolizing the adware, trackware and spyware markets (on top of a hundred government side deals).

      While streaming at that level is not nearly as costly or hard as it was 15 years ago, it is still a significant expense, and most people who would be willing to actually build the underlying infrastructure don’t have the money but do have the knowhow (like me) and most who have the money don’t have the will or knowhow (or the tolerance for multi-year loss). The tech itself isn’t all that much of a challenge, but the storage, bandwidth, and geographic replication are.

      The closest thing to a genuine alternative that can turn a profit quickly is to invert the business model the way Vimeo has done. And Vimeo has been wildly successful, but in a very different way. They don’t sell ads, professional creators pay THEM to host videos on a massive infrastructure. So content creation itself is not the value — content must be connected already to some higher value elsewhere and there must be a value in paying to promote that value indirectly via content. This is the opposite of what almost every vlogger out there seeks to do.

      On the other hand… if there were a conservative consortium that could sponsor conservative vloggers of high value — then certainly, sponsoring them on Vimeo would actually be the perfect fit (and incidentally they would have higher quality video and no ads).

      I think the best shots at seeing a mainstream alternative are:

      1- The model changes to consortia for content creation as mentioned above.

      2- A site like minds.com that is already cash positive (unsure if this is the case for minds already, though) adds a feature to self-host short videos, and grows that as hosting expenses drop until they can host arbitrarily large videos of a passable quality at a profit.

      3- The way we deal with hosting and streaming large data blobs changes a great deal based on some peering technology built into a client program that experiences widespread uptake.

      #1 is very unlikely, but it could happen, especially in the days of superpac money and Soros/anti-Soros style funding.

      #2 Somewhat likely, but the future there is really uncertain. Minds was able to hit the ground running so quickly in part because they depend mostly on external links and caching fragments instead of trying to slurp the entire internet’s worth of content up and keep a hold on it the way Google Golum’s up everyone’s data.

      #3 I believe is the most likely outcome, and will probably wind up occurring as a side effect of widespread adoption of some other, unrelated, really useful infrastructure platform that we haven’t thought of just yet. Imagine videos being hosted and streamed the way torrents work, or perhaps the way Freenet does distributed, ephemeral, degenerative distributed fragment storage (I think the Freenet method, or something very similar, is actually the future).

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