While YouTube has been panicking over one offended LGBT reporter, the platform’s overreaction has both sides outraged.
YouTube announced a crackdown on Wednesday June 5 on videos promoting or glorifying racism and discrimination. However, in what appears to be the haphazard actions of a hastily deployed algorithm, even videos critiquing “hate speech” and conspiracy theories have been taken down or demonetized. The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Max Blumenthal condemned YouTube actions via Twitter, saying the purge “has already gone well beyond its stated aim” blasting it as “carpet bombing style censorship.”
The Daily Caller reported that the fiasco began after gay Vox blogger Carlos Maza aka @GayWonk on Twitter began a campaign of complaints towards YouTube during Gay Pride Month. Maza took umbrage at the offensive jokes targeting him from conservative YouTuber/comedian Steven Crowder. Maza demanded that YouTube deplatform the comedian, tweeting that YouTube inadequately moderates its platform.
Maza has a chequered past as far as his own usage of social media, ranging from calling for political violence and supported Antifa.
Rolling Stone observed that these purges have outraged people on both sides of politics for their own reasons. Only after SPLC was targeted have they questioned the crackdown on free speech, and even then, only for those who share their opinions. Blumenthal, himself a controversial figure, has theorized this crackdown is “just a test balloon for a much wider campaign to suppress content by dissenting voices.”
The director of the SPLC’s Intelligence Project, Heidi Beirich, blamed a sloppy algorithm for the problem during her interview with the Los Angeles Times on Thursday.
The SPLC, once seen as a leader against organized hate, has fallen from grace to be seen as a hateful and petty organization itself. It has been widely criticized for falsely targeting mainstream conservative organizations as “hate groups.”
NewsBusters covered previous incidents where the SPLC was forced to “cough up $3.4 million and an abject apology to a Muslim anti-Sharia activist it had smeared” as well as the fact that “the Department of Defense and the FBI cut ties to the SPLC.” The co-founder has recently been sacked for allegations of racism and sexual harassment. Despite its reputation for sliming conservatives, SPLC became a trusted flagger of hateful content for several tech companies. But Facebook, Twitter and others have cut ties with the company in recent years
The Telegraph reported how content even remotely related to Nazism, even in critique, has been speedily purged from the platform. In a poetic irony on the rise of totalitarian regimes, history teacher Scott Allsop reported he was “devastated” after his YouTube account and 15 years of educational videos because around 10% featured archival footage from Nazi Germany.
In recent interviews, YouTube’s parent company Google has announced that “The openness of YouTube’s platform has helped creativity and access to information thrive,” the Google-owned company said.
The LA Times reported that YouTube acknowledged in an email to the SPLC that some may find the platform’s actions “disappointing,” but added, “it’s important to us that YouTube is a safe place for all.”