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Freedom Is Pricey: YouTube Chooses Revenue Over Human Rights

  • Adam Casalino
  • Jun 24, 2017 4:00PM

Free speech is something worth fighting for. It’s the cornerstone of a free society. You know, the one we’re supposed to be living in.

Free speech is necessary for accomplishing just about every goal in a free, democratic, capitalistic country. You want to start your own business? Free speech allows you to reach customers and clients, form a vision for your company, spread the word, and grow a brand.

Want to become an artist or writer? Obviously free speech will let you express your personal ideas, without fear that a government censor—for any reason—will try to silence you.

Political movements are built on free speech. Fair and open elections cannot happen without free speech. Other freedoms, like a free press and freedom of religion, are dependent on the virtue that in America, we are free to say what we wish.

Even important moments of reform were contingent on citizens being able to express what they believed, without interference from the government. The abolition movement, suffrage, and Civil Rights would not have happened if supporters did not have the right to speak out against established injustices.

Yet throughout our history, free speech has always been a challenge. Aside from legal battles and outright attempts by power-hunger individuals to limit our speech, there have been technological limits for everyday people.

If you wanted to spread your ideas a hundred years ago or more, you had to print them up somehow. Maybe you could get a job at a magazine or newspaper. Or maybe someone would print your letter in their publication. Maybe you could afford getting pamphlets printed up and go door to door in your neighborhood.

The point is there were limits to how far you could get, limits based on your resources and locality.

Then there were the all-powerful gatekeepers, companies that controlled the means of communication.

Up until recently, your free speech only mattered to the people you interacted with on a personal level. Big corporations and government entities weren’t worried about what you had to say, because few people would hear it. Only a precious few (compared to the entire population) actually had access to newspapers, books, movies, and television. And those outlets were controlled by powerful interests.

So effectively, while we had free speech, much of what was being said on a wide scale was controlled by a handful of executives and politicians.

Not today. Thankfully, because of the Internet, every last one of us has amazingly powerful outlets to express ourselves. And nobody knows who is going to become the next big influencer. Countless blogs, companies, and social accounts promise surefire steps in making your content go viral. But the fact is nobody has a monopoly anymore on what you can see, hear, read, and say.

As you can imagine, this has created an unprecedent era of disruption. The old gatekeepers no longer have any power. The gates have changed. Or better put, there are so many new gates, they can’t control them all.

This has led to old media outlets losing the influence they once had. More people are reading news online, than through TV or newspapers. Artists can get their music out without the Draconian demands of a record label. Indie filmmakers can crowdfund their ideas and distribute their work, completely circumventing the toxic Hollywood system.

Each day new innovations are bringing more power to us, the lowly masses. And the powers at be are terrified.

It’s particularly troubling to them that younger generations have taken to the Internet so much. People below the age of thirty have never touched a newspaper (I’m 33 and I can count on one hand how many times I’ve read a paper). They don’t care about what’s on CNN. And they’re more likely to spend a day watching YouTube than watching NBC.

I have nieces and nephews who want to grow up to become YouTube stars. Not TV stars, movie stars, or talk show hosts, but YouTube stars.

This incredible new power will only grow as time goes on. Unless, of course, something is done.

While the New York Times is most certainly dead, along with Virgin Records, and CNN, new gatekeepers are realizing how much power they can wield.

Those companies that are providing the platforms for new media and free speech are discovering that they too, have interests they want to protect. The masses who use their websites and services just might not behave the way they want them to, so they will abuse the influence and good will they’ve established to rein in all this free thought and expression.

We’ve saw this throughout the 2016 election. Twitter was frequently criticized for censoring and outright banning conservatives, some over made up charges of abuse. Meanwhile Black Lives Matter activists celebrated the death of cops, while ISIS spreads its propaganda, and Twitter did nothing.

Facebook was called out, and continues to be called out, for banning conservative and free speech accounts. They have admitted to censoring conservative news on their feeds. Yet they are slow to shut down radical Islamic pages that support terrorism.

But all the manipulative and shady practices of these social giants pale in comparison to YouTube. Arguably, YouTube is the most influential, most disruptive social network of them all. YouTube directly threatens cable news, network TV, movies, even publications. Young people are more likely to hear about current events through their favorite YouTube channels, rather than established outlets.

This means that all the work the mainstream media puts into controlling the way you think is all for nothing. CNN works overtime to distort the presidency, lie about radical Islamic terrorism, and promote far left-wing causes.

But millions of people would rather watch PewDiePie.

Worse than that, people are getting their news from intelligent, effective conservative channels like PragerU, Paul Joseph Watson, and Louder With Crowder. Milo Yiannopoulos may have lost his Twitter account, but he is going strong on YouTube and other sites.

This threatens old media, of course. But they’re already dead. Nothing is going to return us to the days of the 80’s and 90’s, the last era where television ruled what we saw and heard. The cats out of the bag, Pandora has opened the box.

But, the decaying ruins of old media can still find ways of clamping down on your speech. With their ever-shrinking bags of cash, they can manipulate the content on YouTube. YouTube works because of ad revenue. Google’s entire business model is built around free content and services, supported by ads. But if the people buying the ads aren’t happy with the content, then they can indirectly control what is being put out there.

Because if a YouTuber that thrives on ad dollars from his videos loses ads, then he’ll have to alter his content to appease his overlords.

But don’t worry, they’re not going to censor free speech. They are just going to address “extremist” content. Oh good, I was worried for a minute there.

It’s not been long since Google found itself on the receiving end of advertisers’ backlash for extremist content on YouTube. Ever since, the tech giant has been working on improving moderation and filters on YouTube, to remove offensive content.

In the latest development, Google has vowed to use AI (Artificial Intelligence) and human moderators to identify and delete extremist videos from YouTube. To recall, the controversy involving YouTube and the advertisers sparked when various advertisers pulled their ads from YouTube after they appeared on extremist videos. Not just major brands, even the Australian government pulled its ads. (WCCFTECH)

If you do not see an obvious ploy at controling all content on YouTube, it’s time you woke up. “Extremist” content is just code for, “whatever we don’t like.” The moment you put constraints on speech, free speech is dead.

Because, after all, who determines what is extreme? Is calling for the death of an entire group extreme? Sure. Then why aren’t BLM’s calls for dead cops banned?

How about criticizing a powerful political movement? Well… I dunno. What if that political movement is contrary to the leanings of YouTube’s executives? Ban them!

Free speech only works when we allow all forms of speech, even the ones we don’t like. The Internet has given us a platform like never before. Yet social networks like Facebook, Tumblr, and YouTube have fine print that sets limits on what we are allowed say on their websites.