Is YouTube Biased Against Conservatives? Why You Should Care
New rules could mean the video streaming giant winds up promoting leftist leanings, as other digital services have done
YouTube appears to be positioning itself as more than a mere platform for posting and sharing videos.
Ahead of this year’s midterm elections, the tech giant — owned by Google — is changing the way users find news on the site. It has already spent $25 million to promote what it describes as “authoritative” news videos, according to a piece in Fortune.
Google’s own dictionary says “authoritative” means “able to be trusted as being accurate or true; reliable.” So while it seems YouTube is trying to put forth honest news, there’s reason to be concerned it may use this new initiative as a political weapon to promote liberal views and censor conservatives ones.
Facebook, of course, changed its algorithms earlier this year to promote sites it deemed “trustworthy” — and the end result was a boost in traffic to liberal websites and a steep decline for conservative sites. Back in March, The Western Journal concluded that left-leaning sites received a 2 percent bump in web traffic from Facebook because of its new algorithms — while conservative sites saw a 14 percent drop.
Although Facebook and Google are not owned by the same people, the Facebook algorithm changes are certainly worth noting, given past allegations that YouTube has played politics. Perhaps the most notable example of this would be its financial partnership with The Young Turks, a leftist news network headed by Cenk Uygur, who uses profanity on his channel and is not penalized for it. Earlier this year, TYT joined the YouTube TV network, allowing them to expand to a 24-hour operation.
On the other side, conservative creators have said for the past few years that they don’t believe YouTube treats them fairly. In October 2016, Prager University, headed by conservative Dennis Prager, announced on its Facebook page that YouTube had put 21 of its videos into “restricted mode” on the site just a few weeks prior to the presidential election, thus limiting the reach. On the same day, it noted that YouTube had not restricted content from left-leaning Vox, though it had videos with similar titles.
For instance, PragerU’s “Is America Racist?” video was censored — while Vox’s “The Racist History of U.S. Immigration History” was not.
Conservative commentator and comedian Steven Crowder of CRTV, who has over two million YouTube subscribers, has also expressed the same kind of concerns in the past. In 2016, his entire channel was put into restricted mode, meaning his videos cannot be played unless people confirm they are at least 18 years old, according to the Louder With Crowder website.
These are not people on the fringes, either. Prager is a nationally syndicated radio host; Crowder was a Fox News contributor from 2009 to 2013.
It is worth noting that back in December, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai also had a humorous video censored simply for defending the repeal of net neutrality. The site removed the video for seven hours until it was pressured back into restoring it, according to the Daily Caller
In the coming months, YouTube’s end game will become more evident. Will it promote well-researched, fact-based content from both sides of the aisle — or will the site become a hyper-partisan network that shuts down speech with which it doesn’t agree?
Tom Joyce is a freelance writer from the South Shore of Massachusetts. He covers sports, pop culture, and politics and has contributed to The Federalist, Newsday and other outlets.