Video-sharing website YouTube seems to be systematically purging conservatives and others who challenge politically correct orthodoxy from its platform.
Free speech activists across the internet were shocked on Tuesday after YouTube appeared to suspend the account of noted psychology professor Jordan B. Peterson. “I cannot post new YouTube videos, including last week’s Biblical lecture. No access. At least — for now — the videos are still up,” Peterson tweeted on Tuesday morning.
A backlash quickly ensued, and before the end of the day, and indeed shortly after The Daily Caller published a story on the shock suspension, Peterson’s account was reinstated. But Peterson is not the first to fall victim to YouTube’s efforts to censor politically incorrect free speech, nor will he be the last.
The Google subsidiary announced in a blog post published Tuesday that it is taking new steps to combat what it referred to as “terrorism content” and “hate speech” — steps critics assert are little more than efforts to censor conservative thought.
Greatly reinforcing this perception is YouTube's own admission that it is partnering with far-left organizations to decide what exactly constitutes hateful or "terrorist" content. "Over the past weeks, we have begun working with more than 15 additional expert [non-governmental organizations] and institutions through our Trusted Flagger program, including the Anti-Defamation League, the No Hate Speech Movement, and the Institute for Strategic Dialogue," YouTube said in the blog post.
"This is terrifying in an Orwellian way," said Dan Gainor, vice president of business and culture at the Media Research Center. "Organizations that don't support free speech, like the ADL, are being used to monitor it. The ADL has clearly lost its way and become just another left-wing pressure group in recent years," Gainor told LifeZette.
Indeed only two weeks ago the ADL found itself embroiled in minor controversy after wrongly listing a number of relatively mainstream right-wing activists and politicians as racist hate figures, including Rebel Media's Gavin McInnes (who is married to an Asian woman), former Virginia gubernatorial candidate Corey Stewart, and Milo Yianoppolous, who is a half-Jewish homosexual.
YouTube's reliance on partisan organizations to police "hateful" content is troubling enough, but "YouTube's insistence on telling us how to live our lives and what words we can use is even more distressing," said Gainor.
"The plan to have a 'playlist of curated YouTube videos that directly confront and debunk violent extremist messages' sounds positively like 1984. YouTube apparently doesn't believe its customers are smart enough to know what they want to see," Gainor continued. "Unfortunately, billions of people have turned over their free speech rights to companies that increasingly don't believe in free speech."
In addition to promising to promote progressive propaganda videos, the video-sharing website also admitted that it is effectively implementing new ways to censor politically incorrect content that doesn't actually violate its hate speech policies. "We'll soon be applying tougher treatment to videos that aren't illegal but have been flagged by users as potential violations of our policies on hate speech and violent extremism," YouTube wrote.
"If we find that these videos don't violate our policies but contain controversial religious or supremacist content, they will be placed in a limited state. The 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," they wrote.
"We'll begin to roll this new treatment out to videos on desktop versions of YouTube in the coming weeks, and will bring it to mobile experiences soon thereafter. These new approaches entail significant new internal tools and processes, and will take time to fully implement."
But YouTube has already begun to implement some of these new approaches and has been doing so for some time. Numerous right-wing accounts on YouTube have been demonetized over the past year, including those of leading right-wing millennials such as James Allsup, an independent journalist and former director of Students for Trump, Infowars' Paul Joseph Watson, and former Rebel Media reporter-turned-activist Lauren Southern.
Nor is YouTube the first online platform to banish right-wing voices. Last week, Patreon deleted Southern's account solely because she reported on the efforts of "Defend Europe" activists to turn back boats owned by radical left-wing NGOs that European authorities claim have been operating as taxi services for migrants. Last Thursday, fundraising website GoFundMe removed Allsup's account without reason.
"What we have seen in the last decade, across western media, politics and business and through our education sector is a chilling rise in censorship and curtailment of free speech," said Ben Harris-Quinney, chairman of The Bow Group, the oldest conservative think tank in the United Kingdom and an expert on progressive attempts to stifle free expression.
"Online outlets like YouTube became insurgent largely because of this, but as they join the liberal establishment many are culling off the free speech element that was crucial to their success," Harris-Quinney told LifeZette.
"As Bill Clinton said of the last election 'We thought we had changed their minds, but we'd just silenced their voices,'" Harris-Qunney continued. "Brexit in the U.K. and Trump's election in the U.S. prove that establishment media in no way represents the reality of public sentiment, and all censorship does is leave large sectors of society ignorant to reality."
Ultimately, however, efforts to censor "offensive" speech could backfire on the internet media companies that embrace them.
"As a private company I believe YouTube should be free to do as it pleases," said Harris-Qunniey. "However, what we have seen in recent years is a stark decline in the reach and profitability of establishment media, and I suspect the more YouTube curtails, the greater their loss will be."
Last Modified: August 2, 2017, 3:34 pm