YouTube Surrenders

By Kieran Hanselman & Alexander Villena

It’s a sneering type of elitism when executives at YouTube don’t trust you to look at the full spectrum of facts and ideas to arrive at your own conclusions. No, these executives feel as though they need to sterilize information, to protect you from ideas they believe are dangerous or dissent from their personal continuum of acceptable thought. The new YouTube policies formed by an unidentified, elite class were once the dark imaginings of dystopian fiction.

YouTube has long been established as a bastion of free exchange of thought, independent of the corporate stranglehold the old media once had on its expression. But as with all positive developments, there comes a time in the course of human history that there are those made uneasy by dissent. With the proliferation of the internet and YouTube, came a seismic shift in the political climate, one, the establishment class could not consolidate or control.

The decentralization of the flow of information has fostered an unprecedented degree of exposure to different and even controversial thoughts. YouTube has disturbingly devised what it believes is a solution to the supposed dangers presented by free and unregulated exchange. At least, that’s what it wants you to believe. But a different picture begins to materialize when you actually examine the rhetoric they offer.

In light of these concerns, we would all be remiss to not view any attempt to censor free expression with skepticism. The mechanisms YouTube is introducing in order to blockade forms of wrong thoughts are extraordinarily alarming. They read like they were lifted straight out of George Orwell’s 1984.

YouTube tells us it will be deferring to supposed “experts” who will be deciding what stays and what goes. Among those experts include the notoriously partisan anti-defamation league, which is well known for having declared Pepe — a meme frog — a symbol of hate speech. Then there’s the No Hate Speech Movement, a front for the Council of Europe designed to promote hating hate online because without unelected bureaucrats, how would we know what not think?

Though we’re unable to speak for Europe, the United States is a country forged by a hunger for freedom. This is why the preservation of free speech was enshrined as its 1st amendment, realizing that without it none of the others can exist. Even today, the Supreme Court has affirmed that deeming certain strains of speech ‘hateful’ isn’t a sufficient cause for its suppression. Now of course, the Constitution only protects speech from the government. YouTube, as a private company, is free to censor whatever ideas or speech it sees fit.

But as anybody knows, what ‘can’ be done isn’t always what ‘should’ be done. The argument does not lie in YouTube’s right to silence, but in what’s right.

On top of its implementation of ‘experts’, there will be a sort of purgatory to which videos are sent if they are flagged enough by an emotional collective. It doesn’t matter if they actually violate a law or even YouTube’s own terms of service. No, the only criterion is if enough people are offended. In this purgatory, YouTube tells us that these videos will be placed into a “limited state,” where “videos will remain on YouTube behind an interstitial, won’t be recommended, won’t be monetized, and won’t have key features including comments, suggested videos, and likes.”

What this ultimately means is that YouTube will be quarantining that which is unpopular. But if we know anything about speech, it’s that it’s precisely controversial speech that needs protection. For if it were popular, it’d have no need for protection.

What’s happened here… is that YouTube has capitulated to mob rule

It should alarm everyone that this website has not only given control over to a select few partisan, illiberal organizations, but has as well empowered offended mobs to burn unpopular ideas at the stake. It is a sad day in our nation when those who claim to be the ideological descendents of President John F. Kennedy so eagerly abandon the principles that he valued so dearly. Though allies of the ADL and other selected, partisan groups may revel in their newfound control, there is no guarantee that the culture of censorship they are advancing won’t come back to haunt them.

“Without debate, without criticism, no Administration and no country can succeed — and no republic can survive. That is why the Athenian lawmaker Solon decreed it a crime for any citizen to shrink from controversy. And that is why our press was protected by the First Amendment — the only business in America specifically protected by the Constitution- -not primarily to amuse and entertain, not to emphasize the trivial and the sentimental, not to simply “give the public what it wants” — but to inform, to arouse, to reflect, to state our dangers and our opportunities, to indicate our crises and our choices, to lead, mold, educate and sometimes even anger public opinion.”

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