YouTube Flagging “State-Sponsored” News Is Faux Transparency

BAILEY T. STEEN | THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 8, 2018

YouTube have announced a new change in policy which will serve users based within the United States flagging notices alerting them if a news outlet has received any degree of state funding, according to a report from The Hill.

Labeled a complicit purveyor of fake news — one of the many scapegoats coined by losing presidential candidate Hillary Clinton — Silicon Valley’s video sharing tech giant has been thrust into the role of cautious curator against media outlets considered “false propaganda”.

Released on YouTube News’ official blog, senior product manager Geoff Samek released a public statement detailing how a small warning label will be attached to certain videos and channels to disclose their financial ties to governments and affiliate organisations, as well as a link to articles on Wikipedia about the outlet so the viewer can do their own reading.

Mr. Samek said the following:

“News is an important and growing vertical for us and we want to be sure to get it right, helping to grow news and support news publishers on YouTube in a responsible way.

This notice on publishers receiving public or government funding, though still in its early stages, not only carries forward our work in this area through 2017, but represents one of many more steps we will take throughout 2018 to improve how we deliver news content on YouTube.”

Initially, one can admire the bullshit pro-transparency framing of this. If we expect our politicians to have their financial ties open — with their emails readily available for the public to comb through — the fourth estate in the media would seem like a natural choice to follow suit, no?

Only this isn’t a grassroots call for transparency for the good of the viewer, but rather governmental pressure on social media companies from Capitol Hill.

In October of last year, shortly after the whistleblowing news outlet Wikileaks began their release of The Podesta Emails, top members of the government held Congressional hearings demanding tech giants Facebook, Twitter, and Google take action against the conspiratorial “hacking and meddling” by the Russian government in the 2016 presidential election.

“You have been identified as major purveyors of fake news,” said Joe Manchin, the Democratic Senator from West Virginia — sharing the same name and busybody red-scare behaviour of former Senator Joe McCarthy, funny enough. Oklahoma Republican Senator John Kennedy admitted “your power sometimes scares me”, followed by a clear threat from California Senator Dianne Feinstein who told those at the hearing quote “you have to be the ones to do something about it… or we will.”

And Silicon Valley appear to have followed Mummy Government’s orders for a regulated press — you can take your pick whether this was through the kindness of their heart or state coercion— cracking down on the expected targets of RT, formerly called Russia Today, as well as Sputnik which the U.S. intelligence community have decreed via report to be “Kremlin propaganda”.

This follows the freedom of the press crackdown the U.S. government did November, previously covered on TrigTent, when RT were forced to register as a “foreign agent” within a week’s time or face heavy fines up to thousands of dollars or potential jail time — a Neo-McCarthy move of aggression which was not repeated in the case of Qatar’s Al Jazeera, Britain’s BBC or China’s CCTV.

YouTube, despite their inevitable faults, appear to be going forward with a more egalitarian approach in their branding of PBS as state-funded. As reported by The Washington Post, a PBS spokesman gave a comment saying:

“Labelling PBS a ‘publicly funded broadcaster’ is both vague and misleading. PBS and its member stations receive a small percentage of funding from the federal government; the majority of funding comes from private donations.

More importantly, PBS is an independent, private, not-for-profit corporation, not a state broadcaster. YouTube’s proposed labelling could wrongly imply that the government has influence over PBS content, which is prohibited by statute.

If YouTube’s intent is to create clarity and better understanding, this is a step in the wrong direction.”

The funding of PBS was a hot button topic during the 2012 presidential debates between former President Barack Obama and former Republican Governor Mitt Romney who clashed on whether the station should receive funding — with their network income divided up by government agencies, dues paid by the station’s members, seperate foundations, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and donations from just private citizens themselves.

The spokesperson is fair to point out such a simple label takes away the nuance of their network, having so many financial conflict of interests they won’t get pulled by just a single one!

And yet their silence on the RT foreign agent scandal exposes the slippery slope double standard the corporate media are willing to leverage — we’ll turn the other eye until you try that on us.

For YouTube to be intellectually honest in stamping out media outlets for governmental ties one way or another, the conversation doesn’t just stop at #RussiaGate. It must extend to the BBC, Al Jazeera, CCTV and all the way down to the media of the private sector Noam Chomsky described in his book “Manufacturing Consent”.

Will YouTube flag MSNBC and CNN? Say what you want about establishment Republican rags like National Review, they’re correct to point out how The Clinton Foundation’s website has a total of $1 million and $5 million in donations from Boeing — the same company that sells airplanes, rotorcraft, rockets, and satellites worldwide while at the same time take out million dollar advertisement space on those networks as hush money.

Will YouTube flag Fox News? According to The Observer, it wasn’t so long ago that longtime Murdoch Ally, Saudi Arabia’s Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, owned over $1.5B in 21st Century Fox shares before selling them through his own investment firm Kingdom Holding Company.

This donation alone is enough to give Fox the red flag for any coverage of the Middle Eastern conflict pre and post selling his shares. Were they being accurate when they were in the man’s pocket? Are they being honest now that he stiffed them out of more?

Will YouTube flag The Washington Post? TrigTent discussed the stunning crypto-fascist dealings between the U.S. government and Amazon’s billionaire newspaper owner Jeff Bezos. And we use that label “fascist” in the technical sense of the word. Remember, it was Italy’s own Benito Mussolini who said:

“Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.”

Seattle Times journalist Danny Westneat who broke the story, uncovering that of the 238 offers given to Amazon for their 50,000-employee hub known as HQ2 they could either be given immense amount of tax brakes, direct control over their taxes — through a split private-public counsel — which could result in that money being used for their own private interests, pocketing $1.32 billion of the taxes taken from their own workers, as well as their own “Amazon Task Force” comprised of exclusively public officials (tax-subsidised labour, essentially) who will watch over free public housing the government will grant to Amazon’s employees… merely for working at Amazon™.

How can we trust them for any analysis on the corporate giant? How can we trust any of them? And how can YouTube claim credibility if they let cases like this slide and not others like The Russians™ and PBS, home of Sesame Street?

Going forward, YouTube users should demand a consistent, nuanced approach to having a transparent free press both private, public and independent — not a multi-tiered, unjust system of red scares for one, demonisations for others and complacency for the corrupt status quo.

Thanks for reading!

Bailey T. Steen is a journalist, editor, artist and film critic based in Victoria, Australia, but is also Putin’s Puppeton occasion.

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