YouTube Is Not OK (I Promise)
My Chemical Romance! Hell yeah! Now that's a throwback!
On episode 59 of SH!TPOST, you’ll hear from Alex Thomas, a reporter and dear friend who interviewed Ed Krassenstein after he and his brother, Brian, were permanently suspended from Twitter. Then we’ll speak to BuzzFeed News senior reporter Ryan Broderick about the YouTube meltdown following new policies prohibiting white supremacist content and criticisms against conservative “comedian” Steven Crowder’s targeting of a gay journalist.
Later this week, you’ll be introduced to Caleb Cain, aka “Faraday Speaks,” who de-radicalized himself after developing radical views via YouTube and now hopes to help others do the same. (Cain is the focus of a New York Times feature that was published this weekend.) If you have questions you’d like me to ask Caleb, email them to email@example.com. I’ll try to ask him as many as I can!
Our conversation with Caleb Cain will be two-part. To hear the second half of our interview when it’s released on Thursday, subscribe to our premium feed below. For $5/month or $50/year, you can support the show and get extra content.
Plug: I joined The Serfs on Sunday to talk about things far-right. Watch that interview here.
Programming Note: If there are any sh!tpost listeners in Boston, send me an email! I’d love to say hello while I’m in town visiting later this week.
Is YouTube OK?
Visions of a new generation
For the youth, we fight for salvation
All we need to learn is love
On May 30, Vox journalist Carlos Maza called out YouTube for turning a blind eye to right-wing “comedian”—and I use that term lightly—Steven Crowder’s anti-gay comments about him, which Maza says have resulted in years of harassment against him. Maza’s call-out came one day before the platform rebranded to feature LGBTQ+ Pride iconography and renew its declarations of appreciation and care for members of the community that use its site. The hypocrisy was not lost.
(Click Tweet for video)
What followed was an absolute cluster fuck of a response. YouTube was silent on the issue for four days. Then, they responded.
YouTube faced criticism for its ruling and later decided to demonetize Crowder’s YouTube channel, marking it unsafe for advertisements (and, thus, ad revenue). Crowder was provided an opportunity to regain his ad-friendly status if he, among unnamed other things, stopped using his channel to hawk “socialism is for fags” t-shirts. YouTube faced waves of criticism, some of which came from LGBTQ+ employees inside Google. One employee told The Verge: “It feels like YouTube is just giving far-right trolls a guide to circumvent the policy and get away with whatever they want.”
One day after its response to Maza, YouTube unrolled a new policy as part of its “ongoing work to tackle hate.” The policy, YouTube wrote, was aimed at “specifically prohibiting videos 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.”
Some YouTube channels saw their content removed and their platforms deemed unsuitable for advertisements, and a few experienced outright bans. The roll-out of the new policy was botched: many channels that serve educational purposes or seek to counter political extremism were punished as a result. The harassment campaign already running against Maza kicked into overdrive as a result, as content creators on the political right attributed the long-engineered policy to Maza’s criticisms of Crowder and YouTube.
Meanwhile, YouTube sat silent, only clarifying to some reporters off the record that the new policy was not a result of Maza’s criticisms of Crowder. I didn’t agree to anything off the record with YouTube, so now you all get to know that they’ve been knowingly silent. Becca Lewis, a researcher I admire greatly, wrote in Vice:
Because of the rapid succession of these confusing announcements, a range of conservative YouTubers started pinning the blame for the wider policy changes on Maza. Hence, #VoxAdpocalypse.
In reality, platform policies take months to develop and publicly roll out. As my colleague Joan Donovan wrote on Twitter, “large bureaucracies are slow and rigid,” and these specific policies were likely decided “after months of internal debate at YouTube.” In other words, there is no feasible possibility that the new policies were a response to Maza’s tweets. Still, by releasing this announcement the morning after making policy decisions on Maza and Crowder, YouTube all but ensured that harassment against Maza would escalate further.
What happens next is anyone’s guess.
- My Takeaway: To argue that YouTube has a right to remove content, you have to acknowledge that it has the same right to keep it if it so chooses. There's nothing "authoritarian" about seeking an explanation when the stated values of a corporation doesn't match its actions. YouTube has taken to promoting itself as an everyone-friendly platform safe for children and members of marginalized communities. Ultimately, the onus is on YouTube to decide what they want their company to be.
The heart of the issue is that Google has sucked up so much online real estate that it doesn't have a real motivation to hold true to its public promises. Thus, we see piecemeal remedies instead of systemic solutions to the problems it faces. Or as Google senior software engineer Irene Knapp told The Verge: “The company takes half-measures, and pats itself on the back for those half-measures.”
I was unable to reach Maza for input on this piece, which was to be expected. I can’t imagine how awful his online life is right now and I really hope Vox gives him some time to go hang out in the woods.
Digital Hell is What You Make of It
Baby tell me where you want to go
Baby tell me what you want to know
Give you everything I have and more
I started this podcast as addicted to the internet as one can be; it’s the premise of the show. I’ve been closing episodes with the line “I’ll stay logged on so you can log off” for the last year. But I’m working on changing my digital habits in a way that allows me to keep giving you good stuff for the show while maintaining some mental clarity.
I’m writing this to remind you that while some of us are hopelessly plugged into the internet, it’s important that we feel we can step away if we need it. I’m not sure who might need this reminder, but for those that do, this is it.
My recent vacation really solidified the last month of thought and conversation I’ve had about this. The world melts away when you’re under the ocean, and to be forcibly disconnected from the internet in another country is a great chance to refresh. These websites warp our brains and change the way we think.
So pick up an instrument, call your family, or go for a walk. Reclaim your clarity. The internet isn’t going away.
It’s easy to lose yourself online. The digital landscape is hell and it wears on a person after a while, but we have an agency in this scorch that is important not to forget.
Ladies and gentlemen, they got him
The prank call crew over at Not Even a Show phoned into Sebastian Gorka’s radio show and got one over on him. The end result is priceless.
Listen to Chris James, who runs this delightful channel, during his interview with SH!TPOST earlier this year.
The Fun Stuff
Happy Pride 2019!
I think I’m a lawyer now.
An oldie, but absolutely delightful.
This week the president tweeted that the moon was a part of Mars, which is…
I’ve got nothing.
Whatever, the moon is cancelled.
Click through to see our tactical president doing super recon posting.
Travis has a lot of the same brain rot I do, so this post resonated deeply with me.
Congrats to Bobby for defeating the censors.
Our pals over at District Sentinel are embarking on a new venture?