Flat earth, 9/11 ‘inside job’, and the Kennedy assassination ‘cover-up’. These are just some of the ‘conspiracy theories’ that YouTube will baby proof going forward, hiding such content from users as if they were not cognitively thinking adults capable of making rational decisions.
This month, disgraced Buzzfeed performed yet another astonishing feat of shoddy, agenda-driven journalism by reporting that it took just nine mouse clicks on YouTube to go from a PBS report on the 116th Congress to a video entitled ‘A Day in the Life of an Arizona Rancher,’ produced by a Washington immigration reform group known as The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS).
The video that so enraged Buzzfeed details the story of Richard Humphries, an Arizona resident and former narcotics officer living just miles from the US-Mexico border. Humphries, increasingly concerned with the number of illegals traversing his 75-acre ranch, built a watchtower on his sprawling property to help him and federal border agents track illegal aliens. Considering the ‘extremist nature’ of the content, is it any surprise that the CIS was branded in 2016 a ‘hate group’ by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a group itself that has been portrayed as touting a leftist agenda, yet is quietly partnering with YouTube to flag ‘hate’ content?
The Buzzfeed article took exception with many other ‘right-wing’ videos that had the audacity to rear their racist heads in YouTube’s auto-select function. One of those channels is called PragerU, which hosts popular liberal bugbears, including Ben Shapiro, Jordan Peterson, James Damore and Charlie Kirk. The channel, which filed a lawsuit to stop Google and YouTube from illegally censoring its educational videos and discriminating against its right to freedom of speech, operates on the principle of providing “knowledge and clarity on life’s biggest and most interesting topics… ranging from history and economics to science and happiness.”
Sounds pretty radical, yes? Well, only if you happen to be situated on the left of the political spectrum, as the overwhelming bulk of the IT undoubtedly is. Then yes, all that free right-wing speech may seem radical and worth tweaking the almighty algorithm to ensure they never see the light of day. Never mind that the original YouTube algorithm was built on a market-driven principle where the most popular videos shot to the top in the feeds, a phenomenon that presented a direct threat to the mainstream media message. Given the Left’s hot embrace of Cultural Marxist principles, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that Silicon Valley shuns the free market when it works against its own interests.
Now YouTube, obeying the Buzzfeed dog whistle, has pledged to turn the screws even more on ‘conspiratorial’ (i.e. right-wing) creators by “taking a closer look” at how the “Up Next” videos that autoplay after each video ends can lead viewers astray into the dense field of conspiracy-theory, pockmarked as it is with rabbit holes of various sizes and shapes.
Google announced it will begin “reducing recommendations of borderline content and content that could misinform users in harmful ways—such as videos promoting a phony miracle cure for a serious illness, claiming the earth is flat, or making blatantly false claims about historic events like 9/11.”
Although Google said the changes will not affect “whether a video is available on YouTube,” judging by the personal experience of several popular YouTube commentators, for example, Mark Dice, the new algorithm is so effective that even when the exact title of one of his ‘controversial’ videos is entered into the channel’s search field it will not yield the correct result.
The New York Times reported on this latest crackdown against social media creators by saying YouTube and other communication platforms have faced rising criticism for “failing to police the content” that creators share.
That is an extremely disconcerting comment when it is considered that we are not talking about hate speech, but rather ideas that have not been awarded the stamp of approval by both the government and the mainstream media. Yet it is the media – the hallowed Fourth Estate – that was originally designed to keep government in check on behalf of the people. The mainstream media, due to its incestuous relationship with Corporate America has failed dramatically on that score. Now we find the two agencies closely aligned in not only promulgating a particular narrative on every major story that surfaces, but cracking down on those alternative voices that would dare suggest a different version of events.
The number of YouTube commentators that have been purged from the video platform is simply staggering, and reveals the true nature of ‘American democracy,’ which is more concerned with fortifying the status quo than bothering itself with truth and justice.
Tragically, the American Founding Fathers, when they were setting down the First Amendment to the Bill of Rights, which has been in force since December 15, 1791, could not have foreseen the development of two major obstacles that would greatly offset their freedom-loving legislation.
The first is the advancement of powerful private corporations, which fly under the radar of the First Amendment. This would have tremendous implications on free speech since corporations, which have largely cornered the market on all communications, are free to establish their own rules with regards to what they want their customers to see and hear. They are powerful enough to tell their customers ‘if you don’t like our policies, you don’t have to use our services,’ while knowing full well that there are not many alternative options. And since the major IT companies all tend to hold neo-Liberal political views, it is their vision of the world that is being pushed to the forefront.
Meanwhile, and this leads us to the second obstacle to free speech, an increasing number of voices from the political right are being smeared and silenced on the pretext of promoting ‘conspiracy theories.’ It should be kept in mind that no police detective worth his or her salt would stop following a particular lead in a case for fear of being branded a ‘conspiracy theorist.’ Indeed, the world-famous detective Sherlock Holmes would not have been able to solve a single crime had he been accused of being a ‘conspiracy theorist’ by his colleagues, many of whom could not follow his subtle train of thought.
In closing, allow me to just reproduce, for those who have forgotten its essence, the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
When will corporations be forced to live up to the law of the land, especially considering they have in many cases become an actual arm of the government?
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.