YouTube is celebrating its latest crackdown on hate speech with an announcement they’ve removed over 100,000 videos and 17,000 channels in the second quarter of 2019 — which is actually a significant decrease from the 50.2 million videos and 1.7 million channels removed in the third quarter of 2018. The online video monopoly, however, fails to address any of the concerns surrounding how content justice is conducted on the platform.
In an official blog post, the platform credits their “Intelligence Desk” team of contract workers for enforcing its latest policies punishing channels that are “alleging that a group is superior in order to justify discrimination, segregation or exclusion based on qualities like age, gender, race, caste, religion, sexual orientation or veteran status,” which includes conspiracy theories related to mass shootings and revisionist work on The Holocaust. The problem being there’s actually no public database to look into the validity of these individual cases, similar to the YouTube Studio user backend for platform news, updates, and information on videos.
When it comes to moderation, there’s no means to see even high-profile cases with substantial views, subscribers and audience retention, no statistics on why certain videos were flagged under hate speech compared to other reasons, the exact punishment and previous history of such content creators, whether they could contest their cases before removal, was there an impartial person looking over the case, etc. This kind of marketplace knowledge is simply deleted or kept under lock and key by YouTube, expecting users to take their word that everything suppressed in the community is simply just hate-content always corrected through their due process in a very fast manner.
I don’t share this blind optimism for swift YouTube judgment.
“We’re determined to continue reducing exposure to videos that violate our policies,” YouTube’s press statement reads. “That’s why, across Google, we’ve tasked over 10,000 people with detecting, reviewing, and removing content that violates our guidelines. Because of our ability to remove this content quickly, videos that violate our policies generate a fraction of a percent of the views on YouTube. For example, the nearly 30,000 videos we removed for hate speech over the last month generated just 3% of the views that knitting videos did over the same time period.” This would be a neat fact if YouTube would allow independent sources to verify their numbers.
These stats are similar to their community guidelines enforcement report which revealed over 750,000 of the videos removed in the last quarter were a result of quick reports from an “Individual Trusted Flagger”, the 10,000 contract workers which have since rolled into their Intelligence Desk team. It was only after media snooping we’ve found out these flaggers include shady associations with The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), notorious for falsely labeling Quilliam’s own deradicalization activist Maajid Nawaz an “anti-Muslim extremist”, resulting in a court case forcing the SPLC to issue an official apology and a $3.4 million payment for proven defamation. Shocker these “authoritative voices” have a non-authoritative liar among its ranks.
The blog post reiterates talking points that when it updates content policies, YouTube will strive to balance the free expression of its users with “protecting and promoting a vibrant community.” The issue isn’t inherently about freedom of speech, but rather instead systemic justice of moderation within the confines of a communal platform. The freedom of argumentation is hindered, of course, but is incomparable to the unaccountable simply picking winners and losers for its own benefits. There’s no value judgment of the people being banned required to see an issue with leaving detractors no means of defense, no way to ensure cases are handled justly and no alternatives besides incomparable streaming services like Twitch or niche social media alternatives in Gab, Minds, and Bitchute with no real money or power.
YouTube continues to claim their latest policy efforts allowed the removal of older comments, videos, and channels that were previously permitted, further raising the question on whether it’s ethical to retroactively punish users to the full extent for past permissible behavior. Even if we concede this behavior is all fine, a report from the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism still allows YouTube channels to “disseminate anti-Semitic and white supremacist content” even despite the changes, such as Christian channels allowed to speak of how Jews are “aligned with the Antichrist” and go to the “synagogue of Satan”, citing specific cases for readers to investigate in their own time.
The fact YouTube’s responsibility as a transparent community proving hate speech cases is simply outshined by their own flaggers doing these reports in their spare time shows a lack of moral communal character. The ability for a case database, a due process reform for appeals and clear definitions for offenses, particularly for a major monopoly platform touting a 73.39% of the market share, almost 2 billion users every month and such a lavish income of $25 billion that makes the Fortune 500, isn’t too much to ask. The key factor of such a monopoly is it has enough resources to be a tyrannical or transparent as it wants. Financial woes need not apply for the wealthy string pullers. It’s about what they actually choose to do with such liberty over the market rights of others, which of course aren’t recognized under their preferred system of YouTube’s word as the final word.
“We have four freedoms under which YouTube operates,” YouTube executive Robert Kyncl explained in an interview to The Hollywood Report, “freedom of expression, freedom of opportunity, freedom to belong and freedom of information. They truly become our North Star during difficult times. For me, having come from a place that didn’t have freedom of information and freedom of expression, they’re extremely important. Our message is that we absolutely are leaning into the freedom of information and freedom of expression, subject to our community guidelines. We don’t intend to be on one side or another.” As I wrote the other day, YouTube’s financial status is the one side exempt from the rules.
When YouTube continues to maintain a home-ground approach to its community, refusing to negotiate with creators unions while offering appreciated incremental reforms in hiring political managers and appeals reforms allowing direct contact with admins, leaves the platform ignoring its inherent problems, putting bandaids over the gashes and continuing on without acknowledging its dire state. YouTube’s self-interested management requires drastic questioning and given its own Twitter bot accounts won’t even link users to a means to report harassment, the key issue surrounding its perception strifes and financial interests underlying #VoxAdpocalypse, shows it won’t touch upon some self-reflection anytime soon.
Thanks for reading! This article was originally published for TrigTent.com, a bipartisan media platform for political and social commentary, truly diverse viewpoints and facts that don’t kowtow to political correctness.
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