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Should the market or government police YouTube’s speech policing function?

Bob Zadek
Bob Zadek
Jun 19 · 4 min read

The debate over online free speech continues, with YouTube’s decision to “demonetize” the channels of hundreds of controversial personalities, including conservative comedian and provocateur Steven Crowder.

Carlos Maza, a writer for Vox, called out the host of Louder with Crowder for mocking Maza’s flambuoyant personae (aka the “gay wonk”) and ethniticity.

Maza said it was hate speech and, thus a violation of YouTube’s terms of service. YouTube’s response — to keep the videos up but take away Crowder’s ad dollars — pleased almost no one, as Reason’s Robby Soave pointed out.

Crowder thinks there is a double standard if he gets banned while Maza and other elite-approved media are allowed to incite people to throw milkshakes at conservatives— a new trend that makes light of mild form of assault.

Both Crowder’s offensive schtick and Maza’s incitement to milkshake-throwing raise concerns about the limits of free speech on the Internet. Even if Crowder’s jokes were in poor taste funny, no one is served well by “mob justice,” whereby powerful people can pressure companies like YouTube to silence their critics.

This Sunday, I’ll speak to Frank Buckley about his idea for a governmental check on “woke” social media censorship.

In a recent NY Post column, the GMU law professor writes:

“There’s always someone we’re laughing at, and that person is going to take offense. If it’s a conservative laughing at a liberal, even a liberal who seems to be asking for it, even someone who dishes it out but can’t take it, like the butt of Crowder’s laughter, that’s when the progressive social media censors step in.”

As a libertarian, I hold that private corporations can decide what content they allow on their platforms, but Buckley thinks social networks are more like public utilities — i.e., monopolies in need of oversight.

Unlike traditional monopolies, however, YouTube can’t just be split up into a bunch of smaller online video streaming websites.

Instead, Buckley says Trump should appoint a “Social Media Commissioner,” in the mold of the Federal Election Commission or Board of Broadcast Governors to investigate bias in the algorithms like the one that led to YouTube’s demonetization of hundreds of channels in the wake of the Crowder/Maza brou-haha.

Section 230 — Platform or Publisher?

One conservative outlet calling for more regulation of the internet, Human Events, has published a series of articles on the legal nuances of the Communications Decency Act of 1996. This law created the current framework for determining whether companies like YouTube and Facebook are “platforms” — something more like a public utility — or “publishers,” like a news outlet that is responsible for the accuracy of its reporting and the choice of content.

Social media companies are generally designated as “platforms” rather than publishers, which gives them legal immunity from libel and other lawsuits directed at publishers, like Crowder, who use their platform.

My Take: It doesn’t matter whether YouTube is a platform or a publisher, they should be allowed to make whatever decisions they want about people like Crowder. As many examples throughout history demonstrate, monopolies rarely last for long when they abuse their power. Platforms like will meet market demand for video hosting of controversial opinions without government intervention.

Even if a commissioner were independent from day-to-day political pressures, the risks are too great that the role would become politicized. Concentrated power in the wrong hands would just make thinks worse.

To borrow a format from the controversial comedian in question, I’m going on the record to say:

YouTube should be free to discriminate. Change my mind.

Watch Crowder debate people at Google headquarters in Austin about the demonetization of his account:

Learn more, and listen live.

Other Shows with Frank Buckley:

Other Shows on Social Media Censorship


Bob Zadek

Written by

Bob Zadek • host of The Bob Zadek Show on 860AM – The Answer.

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