July 12, 2018

More Obvious Online Censorship in the Works at YouTube



FOLLOWING A YEAR in which YouTube has repeatedly promoted conspiracy-theory videos during breaking news events like the shootings in Parkland, Florida, and Las Vegas, the company announced on Monday a slew of new features it hopes will make news on the platform more reliable and less susceptible to manipulation.

Gosh, I remember the Associated Press and many others pushing a false conspiracy theory about Nikolas Cruz’s nonexistent affiliation with a white nationalist group which, thanks to its distribution, was at least as damaging as any conspiracies promoted by others.

The company is also investing $25 million in grants to news organizations looking to expand their video operations, as part of a larger, $300 million program sponsored by YouTube’s sister company, Google.

Who needs New Jersey’s piddling $5 million in local news subsidies when there’s a $300 million program available, likely to be laden with bias which is probably almost as serious as that seen in New Jersey’s “consortium”?

According to YouTube executives, the goal is to identify authoritative news sources, bring those videos to the top of users’ feeds, and support quality journalism with tools and funding that will help news organizations more effectively reach their audiences.

The challenge is deciding what constitutes authority when the public seems more divided than ever on which news sources to trust—or whether to trust the traditional news industry at all.

With some 450 hours of video going up on YouTube every minute, “human curation isn’t really a viable solution,” Neal Mohan, YouTube’s chief product officer, told reporters Monday.

The obvious answer is not to trust the “authority” of outlets, traditional or nontraditional, but to verify the truthfulness of the content of individual posted videos — and that means human curation.

Since it’s impractical for YouTube to curate the high volume of videos, it’s up to individuals to do their own responsible curating.

If you’re not willing to agree that this is how things should work, then you’re first by degrees and then ultimately claiming that people are incapable of self-governance, and that they need to be managed by their self-appointed statist betters. Ultimately, there really is no reason for anyone to waste their time on the distractions of representative government.

Only rarely were there U.S. mail-imposed or press “authority” filters in the pre-online world (those in place came to us thanks to Democrats FDR and Woodrow Wilson). After the long-overdue repeal of the misnamed Fairness Doctrine, there were essentially no government-imposed “authority” filters in radio or TV (beyond language decency, a “filter” which the left resists), and the quality and quantity of genuine and available information immeasurably improved.

There’s no reason — other than a desire to censor views considered undesirable, which is what YouTube is heading towards doing — that the digital world should operate any differently.

This is just another illustration of why YouTube should have gone public instead of letting itself be acquired by Google, which naturally did everything it could to leverage its near-monopoly in search into a near-monopoly in video.

Go back far enough, and you’ll realize that the Sarbanes-Oxley, the legislation passed in the wake of the Enron debacle early this century, made it infinitely tougher for companies to go public, and therefore infinitely more attractive for them to find a deep-pocketed buyer — setting up an environment ripe for Google to buy YouTube, Facebook to buy Instagram and … I could go on and on and on.


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