YouTube CEO Susan Wojcick made a blog post over on the YouTube Creators Blog back on August 27th, 2019, discussing how YouTube would continue to “raise up” the voices of “authoritative” channels, while also continuing to give a platform to LGBTQIA+ creators, while simultaneously suppressing and censoring the voices of those who don’t actually break any of YouTube’s rules but are considered “borderline” offenders.
The blog is steeped in double-speak, with Wojcick talking about how YouTube is making a commitment to “openness” through censorship.
Within the span of just two paragraphs, Wojcick manages to create an antipodes dialogue that both claims to be for openness yet also advocates censorship of “problematic content”, writing…
“A commitment to openness is not easy. It sometimes means leaving up content that is outside the mainstream, controversial or even offensive. But I believe that hearing a broad range of perspectives ultimately makes us a stronger and more informed society, even if we disagree with some of those views. A large part of how we protect this openness is not just guidelines that allow for diversity of speech, but the steps that we’re taking to ensure a responsible community. I’ve said a number of times this year that this is my number one priority. A responsible approach toward managing what’s on our platform protects our users and creators like you. It also means we can continue to foster all the good that comes from an open platform.
“Problematic content represents a fraction of one percent of the content on YouTube and we’re constantly working to reduce this even further. This very small amount has a hugely outsized impact, both in the potential harm for our users, as well as the loss of faith in the open model that has enabled the rise of your creative community. One assumption we’ve heard is that we hesitate to take action on problematic content because it benefits our business. This is simply not true — in fact, the cost of not taking sufficient action over the long term results in lack of trust from our users, advertisers, and you, our creators. We want to earn that trust.”
The most common sense question would be: if the “problematic content” isn’t actually violating the rules then why does it need to be reduced? And how is YouTube advocating openness of “diverse” views if said “problematic content” must be reduced?
These are questions that won’t ever be answered because it creates a quandary that becomes contradictory to the message that Wojcick is putting out.
At the bottom of the piece we get a bullet point for Wojcick’s “four Rs”, which is: Remove, Raise Up, Reduce, and Reward.
The first one, “Remove”, relates to content that she claims actually violates YouTube’s policies regarding pranks and challenges, child safety, and the always nebulous “hate speech”. The last one, “hate speech”, is the one that we see used a lot to remove completely benign channels like CriticalPast, a historical documentation channel that catalogs videos from the early 20th century. The channel and all its contents were terminated from YouTube in early August for “hate speech”, along with channels like American Krogan and Knight SGC. So yes, in some cases YouTube has labeled actual historical footage as “hate speech”.
For YouTube’s “Raise up” section, it denotes what we already know. That YouTube is exhorting and elevating mainstream news channels, where Wojcick writes…
“We RAISE UP authoritative voices when people are looking for breaking news and information, especially during breaking news moments. Our breaking and top news shelves are available in 40 countries and we’re continuing to expand that number.”
There’s no afflatus here. This has been known for a while.
Coffee Break’s analysis on YouTube’s trends revealed that they have been promoting mainstream media sources and reducing the presence of original content creators for some time now.
But the real tell is Wojcick’s admission that channels that don’t even violate the rules are being reduced. She openly writes…
“We REDUCE the spread of content that brushes right up against our policy line. Already, in the U.S. where we made changes to recommendations earlier this year, we’ve seen a 50% drop of views from recommendations to this type of content, meaning quality content has more of a chance to shine. And we’ve begun experimenting with this change in the UK, Ireland, South Africa and other English-language markets.”
Here’s the thing: Either you violate the rules or you don’t.
There is no such thing as “brushes right up against our policy line”. Essentially she’s admitting that channels that haven’t violated any written rules are still being punished for what YouTube considers to be wrongthink.
We’ve also reported on a number of channels affected by this change – channels that are completely innocent and are entirely harmless, such as SMP Films, who was greatly affected by YouTube’s reduction algorithm to the point where he could no longer make a living producing YouTube videos. What was his violation? Apparently being a straight white male with a family.
While people scoff at the idea, keep in mind that YouTube terminated national folk song channels like Derovolk and Dr. Ludwig’s Historical Folk Song channel for “hate speech”. They demonetized politically incorrect channels like Nerdette’s Newsstand, and suppressed channels for covering the Vic Mignogna lawsuit. That’s not to mention that they keep a blacklist of topics that will result in the suppression of visibility or outright censorship of content if creators use certain terms, titles, or keywords in the tags and/or descriptions.
Basically, YouTube is making a power play to cut out any and everyone that doesn’t align perfectly with the new world digital order that they’re trying to build in conjunction with mainstream media.
There are still some people out there who deny that there’s any sort of agenda at play but all of the evidence and channel terminations seem to say otherwise.
(Thanks for the news tip Clownfish TV)
(Main image courtesy of Baltimore Sun)