The internet is about to get smaller this election season. The silly notion of allowing Americans to speak their mind and let freedom ring is becoming passé. It’s no longer fashionable because digital behemoths say so. Exhibit A is YouTube.
Sift, Sort, and Censor
As the Democrats were preparing for a technological meltdown in Iowa, YouTube announced its plans to play with its platform in such a way as to make it master of the electoral universe. In its official blog, under the heading “How YouTube supports elections,” lies a litany of do’s and don’ts offered by YouTube’s Leslie Miller, VP of Government Affairs and Public Policy.
It’s a frightening display of mammoth proportions waiting in the wings to ban, remove, or otherwise leave Americans with less rather than more information about Election 2020. The Liberty Nation Daily Briefing cuts through the politically correct lingo and tells the story: YouTube has banned “manipulated or doctored” videos relating to the U.S. election, as well as deep fakes and “birther”-type conspiracy theories that question candidates’ eligibility for office, with the primaries already underway.
The powers that be in YouTube-land offer a set of “Community Guidelines” to reduce what they deem “deceptive practices” that could possibly “mislead” people “about voting.” It all seems so user-friendly and, well, sanitized:
- Content that has been technically manipulated or doctored in a way that misleads users (beyond clips taken out of context) and may pose a serious risk of egregious harm; for example, a video that has been technically manipulated to make it appear that a government official is dead.
- Content that aims to mislead people about voting or the census processes, like telling viewers an incorrect voting date.
- Content that advances false claims related to the technical eligibility requirements for current political candidates and sitting elected government officials to serve in office, such as claims that a candidate is not eligible to hold office based on false information about citizenship status requirements to hold office in that country.
On the surface, it all appears to be on the up and up until the reader goes beyond one-step thinking. For instance, who determines what content “misleads”? Who defines the “false claims” supposedly being advanced? And who decides which “authoritative voices” should be utilized in this large-scale technical censorship endeavor? Ms. Miller puts it this way: “Political news and events can be subject to misinformation, so the availability of quality information sources is crucial. That’s why we raise up authoritative voices, including news sources, for news and information in search results, and ‘watch next’ panels.”
Let’s take a moment to reflect upon YouTube’s ham-handedness thus far. Does anyone remember the funny videos of the media meltdown on election night 2016? Try to find those now. You can spend a half-hour searching YouTube, but, poof, they have disappeared, replaced by hours of election-night coverage from ABC or CBS. There are also vignettes from CNN or MSNBC – but the home-grown hilarious videos are nowhere to be found.
Recently, the president of the Media Research Center, L. Brent Bozell, published a riveting article about the shenanigans going on behind the scenes on the powerful social media platforms. In that piece, he cited an instance whereby YouTube – without warning or notice – removed a Liberty Nation video because we dared to say the name of the so-called impeachment whistleblower. It was a stunning display of authoritarian hubris, not to mention sovereignty, regarding what Americans are permitted to see and hear.
As we officially enter the primary season in what is likely to be a contentious election, this move by YouTube is downright frightening. Clichés about Big Brother don’t do it justice. Of course, you don’t miss what’s not there, and that’s precisely what YouTube is counting on.
One last thought: Google owns YouTube.
Read more from Leesa K. Donner.