Is YouTube an un-fettered and welcoming environment for diverse users’ freedom of expression?
As of August 31, 2016, YouTube has begun to enforce a new policy of de-monetization for “content that is considered inappropriate for advertising.” The published criteria included sexual content, explicit violence, profanity, and promotion of drug use; but one criterion stands out: “Controversial or sensitive subjects and events, including subjects related to war, political conflicts, natural disasters and tragedies, even if graphic imagery is not shown[.]”
It has allegedly been under this imprimatur that YouTube has embarked upon a campaign of mass censorship, all the while utilizing enough subtlety to deflect any accusations of engaging in suppression of users’ content. Shortly afterwards, numerous popular YouTube users’ videos were de-monetized; but the story did not end there.
As the emotions of the 2016 election began to sweep YouTube, the company feared that profits would continue to plummet as the large advertisers YouTube has courted inevitably pulled sponsorship of content — largely pro-Trump — with which they did not want to associate themselves.
The de-monetization policy has resulted in YouTube specifically blocking companies from advertising on effected users’ videos, rendering those users unable to earn ad revenue from those videos.
Beginning in October of 2016, 21 videos published by the conservative channel Prager University were placed under restricted mode for viewers using a high school or public library’s Internet server. The wildly popular videos — the channel’s traffic reaching 70 million views in 2015 alone — consist of well-focused, five-minute lectures by eminent and deep thinkers, making the case for conservative values and Western civilization supplemented by mild-mannered, child-friendly, entertaining graphics. Restrictions generally apply to explicit videos; PragerU’s videos are not explicit. More than a year later, YouTube has not normalized those videos’ status. (One might almost surmise that it is on account of PragerU’s inspiring success that they are being targeted thus.)
But in 2017, as YouTube began to move away from algorithmic sanctioning of content after videos related to gay rights and transsexual make-up were accidentally effected, mass de-monetization of mostly conservative, libertarian, and non-leftist accounts followed — allegedly carried out by nameless, self-appointed “experts.”
YouTube’s new system, clarified in an August 1, 2017 statement — literally in the name of fighting “terror online” — attempts to discourage the creation of content “contain[ing] controversial religious or supremacist” views (specific standards conveniently omitted).
But now YouTube has worked its way down to less well-known channels, but whose views would certainly offend their leftist corporate advertisers.
In an article on his site which appeared on the night of October 3, Dr. Jamie Glazov, a conservative journalist and editor-in-chief of the site FrontPageMag, detailed how YouTube had finally de-montetized nearly all the videos on the channel he owns called The Glazov Gang.
“First it was the crowdfunding online company GoFundMe that banned The Glazov Gang from accepting online donations,” Glazov wrote. “Now The Glazov Gang, a fan-generated web-tv show that dares to tell the truth about the threat from the Left and Islam, is also being punished by YouTube for the crime of dissenting from the Left’s and Islam’s totalitarian worldview.”
“This just keeps getting better… 720 out of 724 videos of ours for [the] last almost 6 years on YouTube suddenly are just ‘Not suitable for most advertisers[.]’ YouTube has turned off our Monetization on Glazov Gang[’s] Channel,” Cyrus said in the post to her followers. “For those who may not know what that means for us, it means we are left with $0 [in] income…”
The devastating ramifications of YouTube’s decision is demonstrated by the fewer than 4 million views the channel has garnered in the more than six years since its creation, largely due to a small budget and the relatively niche market for content speaking frankly on the subject of Islam. While large channels with massive viewerships have a high chance of staying afloat, Cyrus and Glazov have only been able to generate a livable income from their channel through the revenue of all of their videos combined.
Pretenses of non-partisan impartiality on YouTube’s part are now exceedingly difficult to make, especially in light of its recent temporary deletion of the account belonging to Glazov’s fellow decrier of Islam Pamela Geller, while all 70,000 of the late al-Qā‘idah terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki’s hateful, jihād-preaching videos have not been banned.
Both Cyrus and Glazov, each survivors of tyranny, are voices who are now being heard less and less. YouTube has therefore shown precisely the kinds of content creators it wishes to silence.
Cyrus, a native of Iran, possesses a humbling biography:
Lashed a total of 109 times on various occasions, raped, beaten, tortured, and a victim of numerous horrors while living under the heavy hand of Islam; Imprisoned 12 times before reaching the tender age of 14 for reasons such as singing in public and unknowingly having her hair showing under her hijab, Aynaz knows firsthand the serious plight of Muslim women living under Sharia Law. Witnessing the suicide of women who saw no hope of leaving Islam, and watching her best friend savagely sodomized by guards while in prison, she is all too familiar with the horrendous persecution endured under the cruel thumb of Islam.
Aynaz was sold into marriage at a very young age and was denied a divorce from her abusive husband simply because she was a woman. She vowed to escape and become a voice for those silent women and children living in a daily nightmare most of us could never imagine.
Finding the courage to flee her oppression, she now lives as an American citizen and has made it her life’s mission to tell everyone the truth behind the threat of Islam that political correctness and media bias ignores.
Living under the constant threat of death from vengeful Muslims worldwide, The Glazov Gang has been Cyrus’s main platform through which to tell her story and explain her first-hand knowledge of Islam to the public. She has also started her own channel, ACU News (“Anni Cyrus Unfiltered”) but it, too, has been subjected to partial de-monetization.
Glazov has experienced his share of brutality as well. The son of embattled Soviet dissidents, Glazov’s father, Yuriy Glazov, was a Christian dissenter during the Bryezhnyev era who in 1968 signed the “Letter of Twelve,” denouncing Soviet human rights abuses. His mother, Marina Glazova, typed and circulated Samizdat (underground anti-Communist political literature). Yuriy risked his life to apply for an exit visa in order to flee Russia with his family. Miraculously, Yuriy, Marina, and Jamie (born Yakov) were able to leave the Soviet Union in 1972, finally settling in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1975.
A witness to the precise nature of Islam’s totalitarian companion in Marxism, Glazov further warned his audience of the creeping degradation of America’s liberty in his article:
The Unholy Alliance’s agenda is clearly succeeding and accelerating. Companies are closing their platforms to those who dissent from the Left’s totalitarian worldview. Google, for example, is blatantly blacklisting conservatives and has admitted to colluding with fascist-Left smear groups to oppress all anti-Left and anti-Jihad thought crimes. Freedom of speech and conscience are being annihilated each passing day right before our eyes.
“The Glazov Gang will not take this lying down,” Glazov declared. “Please spread the message that YouTube has surrendered to leftist fascism and kindly write to the organization to demand that The Glazov Gang get its monetization back[.]”
Cyrus and Glazov later released an appeal video to viewers asking for their financial support.
YouTube has received some backlash in response to its policies and behavior.
Steven Crowder — the only major media host to interview Cyrus to date, let alone on multiple occasions — has openly accused YouTube of directly targeting conservative users, as well as allegedly silencing critics of the leftist (profanity-laced) channel The Young Turks, with whom YouTube has had a close relationship for years. He moved his main operation to Conservative Review’s members-only, subscription-funded video wing CRTV in December of 2016, partially due to de-monetization.
The main cost of this action on the part of YouTube is not only the destruction of countless small users’ sources of income, but the discouragement of non-leftist video talent from launching their own content from scratch as did both Crowder and Glazov.
YouTube, a private company, is free to do as it pleases, but doing so without honestly and openly revealing itself as yet another leftist-run entity is not only harmful, but insulting to the intelligence of its users.
Such behavior on the part of a near-monopoly like YouTube only makes the necessity of free market competition in the fields of content sharing, search utility, and social media even more imperative.
The human cost, however, is undeniable. The safety, not to mention survival, of Western civilization depends upon the courage embodied by voices like Cyrus and Glazov; and their fate likely awaits those patriots, or even simply free thinkers, who have not yet been hit where it is most painful.