Streisand effect: YouTube and Google accused of 'economic censorship'

ANGELOS BERBERAKIS
ISTANBUL
Published

While technically old news, YouTube has been doing this for months with smaller content creators, but has now started going after bigger fish in the sea. When a content creator on YouTube or "YouTuber" is able to attract large audiences and get substantial viewers, then they are eligible to have advertisements on their videos and get some income. While smaller channels might get peanuts, some YouTubers create content as their full-time job.

Due to the Streisand effect, some of the content that YouTube has attempted to censor has actually become more popular as people start wondering why it was deemed inappropriate.

Some might view YouTube as nothing more than a place to upload cat videos, watch new movie trailers and listen to music, but in truth, the platform has become much more than that.

Over the course, of the past two years, political news analysts have been getting much greater view counts, going from the few hundreds to the hundreds of thousands, and sometimes even millions of views per video.

However a not-so-recent, controversial policy decision by the biggest video-sharing platform sees certain videos deemed too politically incorrect, or not advertiser-friendly, demonetized, meaning the uploader cannot make money off of it.

While he is not in it for the money, the latest victim of this "economic censorship," as Julian Assange called it, is none other than former U.S. Congressman Ron Paul and his YouTube news analysis channel, the Ron Paul Liberty Report.

In his latest videos, Paul, a Libertarian, criticizes President Donald Trump's decision to send additional troops in Afghanistan.

"We have no violence, no foul language, no political extremism, no hate or intolerance," Daniel McAdams, co-producer of the Ron Paul Liberty Report, as reported by RT America. "Our program is simply a news analysis discussion from a Libertarian and antiwar perspective."

Paul's channel is not the first, but is the biggest channel, to be hit so far. Other channels include that of Diamond and Silk – two black women who strongly support Trump.

Technically, as a private entity under tech giant Google, YouTube reserves the right to demonetize videos on "controversial issues and sensitive events," however this is a recent policy change, and the platforms de-facto monopoly in the sector has even lead some creators to suggest that it should be nationalized so that First Amendment rights are guaranteed.

However demonetization was apparently only the beginning for edgy content on YouTube. Now the company has started putting videos on a "limited state."

While many videos and sometimes even entire channels get permanently banned from the platform, some channels have too big of a following to go quietly into the night, so instead of deleting their content, YouTube has decided to effectively shadow ban it.

YouTube videos that are placed in this limited state may not be found via recommended videos. Even searching for a video on a limited state can be tough even if it has hundreds of thousands of views and a very positive like-to-dislike ratio.

The first video to be placed in this digital gulag was one by Jared Taylor. It was certainly controversial, as it discusses subjects such as biological race and IQ.

While it might be an uncomfortable subject to some, the video is not a call to violence, it makes no threats of any nature, nor does it advocate anything illegal. It simply puts ideas into the marketplace.

Should one attempt to access the video now, they might only find mirrors of it, as one will need a direct link to access the original.

The view count, likes and dislikes and comments have all been disabled and a warning of "inappropriate" content can be seen right before accessing and while watching the video.

The last time YouTube attempted to censor videos it did not agree with politically, it did so in a much more public campaign, with "YouTube Heroes," attempting to curb what it deemed to be hate speech. It backfired badly, as even mainstreams creators criticized the program, which was eventually cancelled.

YouTube also reportedly uses artificial intelligence (AI) to determine what it deems to be inappropriate. It is very possible due to the tremendous quantity of content on the site that videos might be taken down automatically even though they might not have violated any rules. Due to AI's inability to understand context, it might even start banning videos that criticize controversial opinions simply because they had to use a specific sentence to quote someone to build a counter-argument.

It is a grey area morally as well as legally. While YouTube and Google reserve the right to change their policies, content creators may well argue that this is not what they signed up for. Some big YouTubers have been on the sight for over a decade now, and while this is not the first time policy changes have been introduced, they are by far the biggest and most controversial to date.

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