Is YouTube Automating Censorship For Big Bucks?
Acclaimed YouTuber, Thunderf00t, along with many other YouTubers are expressing strong concern that YouTube, in an effort to better cater to potential advertisers, has introduced new video management programming which boils down to automatized censorship of materials which may be concerning to advertisers. Here is Thunderf00t on the matter:
You can read the official YouTube statement here. The pertinent statement is that videos containing profanity will be algorithmically demoted (i.e., pushed way down on search turnups so as not to be seen). This sounds pretty innocent. But what is profanity? Is criticizing Islam to be considered profane because it is considered profane to fervent Muslims? Ditto Christians, Jews, and other religions with subcommunities known for making complaints en masse? YouTube does have a history of pulling videos at the demand of offended religious groups. Will this process simply be automated rather than the result of receiving angry emails?
Profane is a term that we readily associate with things like gratuitous sexuality, bodily fluids, and perverse violence. But what standard will YouTube be applying? If YouTube was indeed implementing a sort of automated profit-based Darwinian culling process in which videos that are calculated to produce greater financial risk than reward are hammered down to the bottom of all search results, favourite lists and so on, they would never overtly say that that was what they were doing. Rather, they would announce the change in a manner that came of as being as harmless and beneficial to the user and society as possible.
In much of the Western World, false democracies reign because one of the core elements of democracy – a mass media which presents information relevant to the public sphere in an objective manner – has been eliminated as a result of the mass media being run by profit-driven/enslaved corporations. I say enslaved because it may not even be an option for a major media outlet to function in a more pro-democracy manner as it would quickly be outcompeted by other media providers who put profit rather than civics first. While many viewers may love to have a more trustworthy media source, the advertisers who are the bread and butter of the media would not.
While television, the newspapers, and the radio have been severely compromised, the Internet represents a new hope. Sure, the economic and political elite still have an advantage as they are better able to promote and staff their websites, they no longer have the almost complete absolute control that they have over the Old Media. The Internet have provided average people like myself with the ability to write and be read, like Thunderf00t to make videos have people watch them, and so on. It has allowed for the mass organization and mobilization of like-minded people from all over the world. One of the greatest impediments to democracy in a large society is the difficulty for people to organize and share ideas with others. The Internet has addressed this problem better than any other innovation ever has. And YouTube is a big part of this. For YouTube to go the way of Big Media would be a significant loss to democracy.
I trust many online citizen journalists and media watchdogs will be on high alert in response to this recent move by YouTube.