Get ready for the new euphemism for social media censorship: “no longer commercially viable.” YouTube on December 10 reportedly will implement new terms of service that allow the video-sharing goliath to end creator accounts summarily if they cannot be monetized. And how will YouTube decide if an account cannot be monetized? By removing ads from a channel ahead of the changing terms.
British nationalist Laura Towler sounded the alarm on Wednesday and urged her viewers to subscribe to her BitChute account after receiving a notification from YouTube of the impending changes. Towler reported that her videos were still monetized as of Tuesday. But after she received the notice, she discovered that YouTube had peremptorily removed all of the ads on her videos.
As a result, her channel is “no longer commercially viable.”
Since 2016, and with increasing frequency, conservatives and nationalists are seeing their YouTube channels erased, often with no warning or explanation. In the blink of an eye, years of work creating content and building an audience are lost, often along with the related income.
Towler is not the first right-of-center vlogger to warn of another impending purge. Earlier this month, Chadwick Moore, a columnist for Spectator USA with 51,100 Twitter followers, tweeted: “Any political YouTubers with remotely interesting, controversial, or right-of-center content needs to set up their @bitchute or other alt account now and start moving videos over and promoting their new platform. Sources say massive purge is starting mid-December. Worse than ever.”
The timing makes sense. With the Christmas season getting into full swing and the 2020 primary elections beginning in January, everyone’s a little busier than usual and might not notice that their favorite YouTube channel has disappeared.
In the depleted field of content creators that YouTube has still permitted to post despite their unwelcome content, who will be left standing?
The Nonaggression Pact Between Social Media Monopolies
and Establishment Conservatives
If the entire weight of America’s libertarian-conservative billionaire network were deployed to defend the First Amendment and resist the decisions by social media monopolies to purge nationalist content, they might still do it, but they’d have a fight on their hands. But just as Molotov and Ribbentrop agreed to carve up Poland in 1939, it appears there is, at the least, a tacit nonaggression pact in place between establishment conservatives and the social media giants.
As an aside, and to show just how much has changed in American culture, there was a time when the ACLU would have defended Lana Lokteff, James Allsup, and all the rest of YouTube’s digital desaparecidos.
Over the past few years, and especially during 2019, Google and Facebook have been buying their way into conservative and libertarian circles. Within the network of think tanks and PACs known as “Conservatism Inc.,” who knows how much money they’re throwing around. It’s a smart business move for these social media monopolies. When people who develop ideas are getting paid, they tend to develop paid for ideas.
Google and Facebook can afford to buy their way into pretty much anything. Google’s value as a company now exceeds $900 billion, and their most recent balance sheet shows they are sitting on an astonishing $109 billion in cash. Facebook, way behind Google and yet rich beyond comprehension, has a market value of $567 billion, with a mere $41 billion in cash lying around.
Several weeks ago, I had the pleasure of meeting two Google operatives who were staffing a table in the networking hall at a national libertarian/conservative conference which shall remain unnamed. Apparently these two Google employees had been experiencing nothing but warm affirmations of their private company prerogative to censor whomever they want, but they became uncomfortable when asked about their YouTube subsidiary’s systematic deplatforming of various independent channels such as Red Ice TV (still available on BitChute). The more poised of the two promised to refer me to someone in the Google organization who “would love to talk with you.”
Pick Your Purge
After multiple follow up emails sent in the subsequent weeks, a brief reply directed me to “email@example.com.” Following many more emails and voicemails left with Google’s press relations office, the following reply came on November 21:
Hi — Per Susan’s Q3 Creator Letter, YouTube is built on the premise of openness. Based on this open platform, millions of creators around the world have connected with global audiences and many of them have built thriving businesses in the process. But openness comes with its challenges, which is why we also have Community Guidelines that we update on an ongoing basis. And over the last few years, we’ve been investing significantly over the past few years [sic] in the teams and systems that protect YouTube. This work has focused on four pillars: removing violative content, raising up authoritative content, reducing the spread of borderline content and rewarding trusted creators.
Google Press Team
First of all, do these sound like the words of a platform, or a publisher?
Exactly what “Community Guidelines” were “violative” in the removal of Allsup and Red Ice TV? Could it be this?
Our products are platforms for free expression. But we don’t support content that promotes or condones violence against individuals or groups based on race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, nationality, veteran status, caste, sexual orientation, or gender identity, or content that incites hatred on the basis of these core characteristics.
The operative words here, to justify deplatforming, would not be to “promote or condone violence,” because channels are banned that haven’t done that. They must be “content that incites hatred on the basis of these core characteristics,” and there’s a huge problem with this. Because anything nowadays can be said to “incite hatred.”
YouTube is not a publisher. It is a platform and this means it is exempted from liability for whatever content appears on the channels of individual creators. If content doesn’t violate the First Amendment, it supposedly cannot be removed from a platform. The only reason YouTube can get away with it is that its parent company is sitting on $109 billion in cash and can overwhelm any legal challenge.
But who would challenge them? Not libertarians, because Google is a “private company”—as if that justifies violating the conditions of its platform exemption. Would Conservatism, Inc. challenge Google, or not? Is Google now pouring some of that $109 billion in cash into donations to the charitable foundations and PACs that dole out money to conservative groups?
The legal questions just got more subtle, however, with YouTube’s new “terms of service.” Who is to deny advertisers the right to demand their ads avoid various types of content? Who is to deny a platform the right to deny a forum to channels that lack “commercial viability”? Can you occupy part of the public square, if you don’t pay for it? But don’t taxes subsidize the internet?
And who will pay for the attorneys to make these arguments on behalf of the banished, if the ACLU and other powerful left-wing pressure groups, establishment conservatives and libertarians, and every major corporate online advertiser in America are paying legal fees for the other side?
Censorship Validates Extremist Rhetoric,
Honest, Open Debate Does Not
YouTube and its parent company, Google, had better think carefully about what they’re about to do. Because the nationalist Right will consider another round of silencing not only to be a validation of their perception of a double standard, whereby social media monopolies hold conservative content to a different standard than liberal content but also that this shows how social media monopolies have bought off the more moderate right-wing. In other words, they will view the moderate right-wing as complicit in the corporate muzzling of free speech. Then what?
The strange case of Nick Fuentes offers a glimpse into what could come next. Only 21 years old, Fuentes likely would not have such a high-profile if not for the social media giants’ aggressive deplatforming efforts. It was only after other voices were silenced that he rapidly accumulated millions of views on his YouTube channel and his website attained an Alexa ranking that your average libertarian think tank only dreams of achieving. Fuentes not only became part of a shrinking set of alternative voices still active, all of his pronouncements—from inconvenient facts to outrageous invective to outright racism—gained credibility.
One of the best summaries of what Fuentes has done can be found on the channel of an anonymous British YouTuber with 61,000 subscribers who goes by the name “On the Offensive.” He presents a 30 minute series of video clips of college events hosted by Charlie Kirk’s Turning Point USA, where nearly every person during the Q&A asks uncomfortable questions about immigration and other issues where they feel betrayed by what they allege is a co-opted conservative establishment.
Thanks to Fuentes and others, including the more studious Vincent James, there is now an intensifying civil war between what might be described as the nationalist right vs the globalist right, despite the fact that both parties to this war are largely comprised of Trump supporters.
Red Ice TV’s Lana Lokteff, in a recent American Greatness interview, had this to say about deplatforming: “If an idea is harmful or just awful, best to talk about why that is and air everything out from every angle. The best argument wins. The truth should not fear any inquisition. If we do not, that is what creates desperate people doing radical things to be heard.”
You can agree with that sentiment even if you disagree with everything else.
Google, Facebook, and the rest of the social media giants, along with, perhaps, their new partners in Conservatism Inc., need to realize an historical truth. Every time you mow down another voice, the replacement voice arrives immediately, it grows faster and uses the censorship threat as justification for even more extreme speech.
Censorship validates extremist content, both for the producer and the consumer.