BAILEY T. STEEN | MONDAY, NOVEMBER 12, 2018
“Red Dead Redemption 2”, the latest title from controversial video game publishers Rockstar Games and Take-Two Interactive, is an open world experience set in the black heart of the 1899 American west. Its lead character, Arthur Morgan, is a member of an outlaw gang of thieves forced to survive by fighting federal law enforcement, bounty hunters, rival gangs and the insane characters littered throughout its western landscape. The story, tailored by the game’s honour system, leaves the morality of Morgan’s character up to player choice. No deed, however good or bad, is mandatory.
Nobody, besides fake-outrage non-journalists, saw the game as problematic until just a few days ago when VICE published an article manufacturing controversy of how gamers can murder an in-game suffragette feminist which can be found shouting for the right to vote (taking place 20 years before the 19th amendment was passed, after all).
Shirrako, a highly popular YouTube content creator, was initially banned from the platform following the article’s release. It seems administrators took issue with his videos where he either hogtied her, beat her, tied her to train tracks and even fed her to an alligator. One of the clips, which can be seen below, has over 1.2M views since their decision to reinstate the channel.
The comments, of course, is littered with horrible fodder standard for the YouTube platform. “The NPC is made to be rather annoying, when you try to shop for clothing in the game, your dialogue with the shopkeeper keeps being interrupted by her shouting, so I simply wanted to shop in peace.” Shirrako explained, saying the clip was merely an edgy joke, not political in nature. When asked about sexist comments by his viewers, the YouTuber said he did not “like censoring people’s opinions, regardless if I like them or not.” These values of free speech must have been misinterpreted as inciting violence as the platform shutdown his account almost overnight.
“YouTube closed [my] channel because I killed a female NPC in #RDR2… They said It promoted violence,” Shirrako announced on Twitter. “You spend the entire games murdering men and no one cares, punch a woman and you get banned, are you out of your mind? They only notified me of one video being taken down,” he continued, “then [an] email saying Bye-bye basically. Apparently it ‘promotes violence’. Blowing a man’s head off with a shotgun is fine though (you can do that in the game).”
The above clip, which took place during a livestream, echoes his in-game footage where he slaughters members of a KKK meeting (778,000 views), lassoed other KKK members to the train tracks (18,000 views), beats up an anti-semitic Mayor (7,595 views), among other videos where his dishonourable Morgan harms fictional NPCs in glorious fashion. These videos were deemed fine, but YouTube decided the feminist video was just too graphic for their Community Guidelines.
The next day, YouTube issued an email to VICE where their administrators were clear in saying “graphic content that appears to be posted in a shocking, sensation, or disrespectful manner” is unacceptable and they “do not allow content that’s intended to incite violence or encourage” among other
“dangerous activities”. This was later reversed when Ryan Wyatt, YouTube’s head of gaming, declared this to be a “misinterpretation” of the policies.
“The reviewer will be educated on this outcome and on how to avoid repeating this mistake,” Wyatt tweeted yesterday. “Sometimes we make mistakes, which is why we have multiple escalation paths for reviewers to raise tough decisions and we give creators the right to appeal.”
“YouTube’s community guidelines prohibit among other things, gratuitous violence, nudity, dangerous and illegal activities, and hate speech,” a YouTube spokeswoman also stated, trying to save face after the ban. “Creative formats such as video games can be challenging to assess but when content crosses the line and is flagged to our attention, we take action as necessary.”
This claim is incredibly rich given the miss-matched priorities of the YouTube platform. As the largest alternative media platform on the internet, their band of AI algorithms and their 10,000+ content moderators, curiously labeled their “Trusted Flaggers”, have often taken to declaring old videos as being retroactively a violation of these ever-changing guidelines, which are only subject to an appeal process conducted only by the platform (so good luck clearing your name if the site disagrees with your rights).
In May, YouTube apologised after a “accidental” scandal of mass flagging, otherwise dubbed the #YouTubePurge, saw accounts belonging to centrist-right political commentators (which include Sargon of Akkad, InfoWars, Andy Warski, Tim Pool, etc) who had accounts hit with strikes following recent changes to their policies. Meanwhile, the infamous dead body video from Logan Paul received support from YouTube algorithm system, the sexually graphic content of ElsaGate was on the rise and other extremist accounts remain relatively unharmed. The #YouTubePurge mistakes were also reversed, granted, but demonstrated how a lack of due process for content policing can often lead to a ‘shoot first, ask later’ form of injustice for all. This issue now persists even in the context of video games
It is unclear how, exactly, YouTube decided to terminate and reinstate this channel, and that’s the entire problem. Where’s the transparency when it comes big tech monopolies hosting the vast majority of our entertainment? Shirrako luckily had the backing of PewDiePie and Keemstar, two YouTube content creators who rose the issue to the administrators over other social media account, but where’s the hope for smaller channels who don’t have this large voice to collect their justice outside the appeals process? Would we know about this issue if the video didn’t reach millions of views? Going forward, YouTube users should demand a consistent process, otherwise even video game shitposts are subject to censorship.
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. Bailey Steen is a journalist, graphic designer and film critic residing in the heart of Australia. You can also find his work right here on Medium and publications such as Janks Reviews. For updates, feel free to follow @atheist_cvnt on his various social media pages on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Gab. You can also contact through firstname.lastname@example.org for personal or business reasons. Stay honest and radical. Cheers, darlings. 💋