It’s no secret that most media outlets, hordes of vigilant social media users, and the great majority of influencers in the tech and entertainment spheres lean to the left.
In and of itself, the political ideologies of the men and women who most affect thought in the West does not matter. In theory, everybody has one vote.
But those with a healthily skeptical view of human nature and the effects of power know that this notion- that those with the power to influence thought will refrain from doing so out of democratic principle- is utterly naïve.
Politics and social media have become synonymous. Countless Facebook timelines and YouTube home pages remain littered with political discourse.
That may not be the case for much longer. The politics will remain, but the discourse could eventually be replaced by monolithic, ostensibly leftward slanting opinions, with any resistance buried through a number of subversive means.
The wheels are already in motion.
The decision makers for Twitter, Facebook, and Google haven’t even made a convincing effort to mask their suppression of contrarian voices.
Milo Yiannopoulos, despite his more recent errors in judgment, was blackballed from Twitter based on the unspoken premise that he should be held personally liable for the posts of those that follow him. Of course, his one-time iconic status among many who identify with the right was not given as a reason for booting him from the platform, but the formal explanation by Twitter fooled nobody who is paying attention.
Facebook and its fearlessly liberal leader Mark Zuckerberg had to publically deny charges that his platform suppressed stories that would seem to align with a conservative viewpoint from its Trending Topics feed.
The most recent and newsworthy case, however, is YouTube’s demonetization of certain content creators and videos under the guise of enforcing “community guidelines.”
The criteria that warrant the removal of a video is widely-ranging enough to be used by the likes of Joe Stalin and Chairman Mao.
It includes content that is deemed:
- sexually suggestive
- inappropriate in language, including harassment, profanity, and vulgarity
- promotional of drugs and other regulated substances
A bit overarching, but understandable criteria, should they be taken at face value. But there is one specified cause for de-funding that is clearly aimed at dissenting political thought:
- controversial or sensitive subjects and events, including subjects related to war, political conflicts, natural disasters and tragedies, even if graphic imagery is not shown
When you consider that “political conflict” apparently has been construed to encompass a particularly contentious election cycle, then the problem emerges.
YouTube utilizes voice-recognition technology to create transcripts of uploaded videos, with those transcripts then parsed for language that fits the criteria for de-funding. The list of keywords that are relied upon to flag a video is not accessible to the public. An examination of videos that have been demonetized shows that this list of criteria, even in its vague and over-reaching wording, is disingenuous.
You can watch this video of Steven Crowder explaining the measures his show takes to be FCC compliant. Despite bleeping profanities and abiding by broadcast guidelines, somehow the majority of Crowder’s videos are not deemed YouTube compliant, as they were demonetized without as much as a warning email from YouTube’s censors.
Meanwhile, the resident political pundits for YouTube, The Young Turks, have not only been seemingly unaffected by the new enforcement of YouTube’s “community guidelines,” they have been notably silent on the issue that is so relevant to their primary medium: YouTube.
Some have noted that it is not just conservative YouTubers who have been affected by inexplicable demonetization. Some have cited this as proof-positive that conservatism is not the reason some YouTube users are being targeted for de-funding.
In my estimation, being conservative is not the only cause for defunding, but it is still a cause.
Massively popular, seemingly apolitical YouTube personalities such as Jenna Marbles, animator David Firth, and Ethan Klein took to Twitter to complain about the surprise of finding many of their videos were no longer revenue-eligible.
The instances of non-political videos that seemingly don’t violate any of YouTube’s guidelines have prompted another conclusion: YouTube and its largest advertisers want to maintain their share of the revenue pie, paying as little as possible to these massively popular personalities.
What else could explain why innocuous videos by non-conservative users would be defunded?
It must also be stated that some videos are likely to be caught in the YouTube algorithm when they cause no threat, monetarily or ideologically, to the decision makers on YouTube. Cases in which a user who qualifies neither as a major earner nor a conservative pundit being demonetized have occurred, but they don’t serve as evidence that YouTube is punishing all parties equally.
Case in point: the foul-mouthed, controversial Young Turks being apparently beyond reproach, while carefully edited conservative clips are labeled “extremist.”
If revenue-hoggers such as PewDiePie and conservative thinkers who refute the views held by Google’s decision makers can be suppressed and eventually silenced, then they might as well take them out with one stone.
But there is one umbrella-fact that explains why the de-funding of personalities with loyal followings makes sense for YouTube: traditional media outlets are tired of losing advertising revenue to these online personalities.
Disney is the parent company of ABC and ESPN, two networks which have been a financial albatross for the Mickey Mouse Corporation. The cord-cutting phenomenon that has so benefitted YouTube personalities has had an opposite effect on the viewership of traditional networks, particularly ESPN.
On a simple level, it is clear that traditional media outlets, including Disney and its networks, would benefit from the demise of the most popular YouTube stars. The eyeballs that currently go to YouTube personalities would have to go somewhere should those personalities be forced out through de-funding.
But what would be YouTube’s motives for appeasing these traditional media outlets by enforcing these disingenuous policies?
Consider that in March of 2014 Disney shelled out $500 million for Maker Studios, a multi-channel YouTube network that boasts 5.5 billion views per month. YouTube is valued by most to be worth nearly $80 billion, yet with the acquisition of Maker Studios, Disney became the single biggest influencer in the YouTube network besides Google itself.
With Disney’s investment serving as a legitimizing stake in the value of YouTube and digital media in general, it is logical that YouTube would be open to reciprocation should Disney have any, let’s say, “suggestions.”
The traditional media powers- led by Disney- want control of YouTube eyeballs, and the advertising revenue that comes with those views. Non-political YouTube personalities take a disproportionate share of views. Those are valuable advertising dollars not going to Disney and friends.
They must be suppressed through de-funding, using whatever community guideline most fits as justification, even when it doesn’t fit at all.
Conservative pundits not only hog the eyeballs of their loyal following, they dispute the ideologies of those that run traditional media. They are even worse than those that only steal advertising dollars.
Steven Crowder, Rebel Media, and your like-minded righties: consider yourself as good as gone.
What is most disturbing about this attempt to monopolize the user base of YouTube is the demographic the de-funders are shamelessly attempting to hone in on- children.
After all, the internet is the last bastion of unregulated advertising. Those pesky FCC regulations limiting advertising to children restrict the reach of Disney’s potential influence.
Kids are growing up in a world where YouTube has been a reality as consistent as the sun and the moon, and many know how to navigate the site sooner than they know how to tie their shoes. Why allow networks to dictate the content kiddies watch on TV when they can do a YouTube search and be exposed to an infinite stream of videos from their favorite personality?
Google and its largest brand partners want to steer those impressionable eyeballs to their content, reaping the benefit of advertising dollars while also creating brand loyalty at a young age.
Google’s YouTube Kids app, launched in 2015, is the embodiment of this idea.
The app professes to, “make it safer and easier for children to find videos on topics they want to explore.”
Let’s be honest: the app will steer children toward videos that YouTube and Disney want the children to be steered toward, whether it be for the purpose of advertising revenue, brand indoctrination, or both.
The whole idea of looking out for the little ones’ sensibilities is simply a means to an end:
“If YouTube can earn the trust of parents and hook a new group at an even earlier age, then that’s tapping a whole new market of users that will literally grow up with the service—and use it for a much longer portion of their lives.”- Wired
The seemingly all-encompassing criteria which are used as the basis for defunding videos?
Smoke and mirrors.
The quote above cuts to the core of what de-funding is all about: crowding out those who take up the most eyeballs while simultaneously draining the earning power of those who refute the ideology of the traditional media powers.
And, ultimately, corralling the eyes and minds of children toward the videos that most benefit Google, Disney, and other organizations that are less obviously set to gain from this phenomenon.
All done in the name of eliminating “extremist” and “offensive” content with child welfare in mind.
In 2017, I’m not surprised at how blatant it all is. All I can do is laugh.