Back-Door Censorship And Dirty Tricks On YouTube…

O’Reilly on Fox News: Claims Amsterdam, Holland is a cesspool of crime and corruption, and an example of how liberal policies don’t work…

Interesting goings-on on FaceBook and Youtube today, which demonstrate that censorship and dirty tricks are alive and well in US politics – and so-called “news”…

Earlier this week I received a message from my FaceBook friend Thomas Milo, a recognized world expert in Arabic typesetting. Thomas was passing on a link to a video on YouTube ,which gave some interesting statistics about Amsterdam as a rebuttal to a recent segment by Fox News commentator Bill O’Reilly.

O’Reilly – who is not one of nature’s liberals – was joined on the segment by a couple of women “experts” who looked like The Stepford Wives. All three claimed that liberal policies had turned Amsterdam into a cesspit of drugs, gangs, crime and corruption.

Didn’t sound much like the Amsterdam I knew. I traveled on software business to just about every European capital in the late 1980s and 1990s. Amsterdam had seemed like a peaceful, relaxed place. You could walk the streets at night without fear. Had things changed that much in ten or fifteen years?

Well, no, according to the rebuttal, which was a completely innocuous video showing people walking round Amsterdam, or traveling the city’s canals on barges. It’s combined with some interesting statistics which show how much worse crime and the drug problem are in the USA than Holland. The whole thing is so innocent you’d happily let your two-year-old watch it…

Official government statistics seem to show that the USA has a stronger claim to the title of “drug- and crime-ridden cesspit” than Holland.

What’s really interesting, though, is what happened next…

The first time I visited the Youtube link, the video played with no problems. It was pleasant, factual and convincing. Then Thomas posted another FaceBook comment, claiming that it had been “sabotaged”. Huh?

I went back for another look. This time, Youtube had put up an advisory notice that “this video contained material that might not be suitable for under-18s”. To watch it, I had to sign in to my YouTube account and verify my age.

“This video or group may contain content that is inappropriate for some users…”

What’s especially interesting about all this is that the original O’Reilly segment, also on Youtube – and containing words like “brothel”, in my judgement more “inappropriate for some users” than any of the language in the rebuttal – did NOT require you to sign in.

That’s the trouble with the kind of “user community self-censorship” that’s used on sites like Youtube: it’s wide open to abuse, since any content can be anonymously flagged by any user, and thus easily and effectively handicapped.

I have no political axe to grind here. I’m neither a liberal, nor a conservative. I tend to make up my mind on individual issues rather than taking any polarized stance. What scares me is that it’s so easy for any unscrupulous user or group of users to behave like the Thought Police, and use flagging as a political or propaganda weapon. You have to be pretty insecure in your beliefs if you can’t allow dissent. Or else you believe you’re fighting a “just and holy war” for the hearts and minds of US TV viewers, in which The End Justifies The Means (and we’ve heard that one before…).

Where would you rather walk in the street at night – Amsterdam, or New York?

It will be fascinating to watch what happens next. I logged into Youtube – along with many others – and posted a protest about what appears to be cynical and malicious manipulation of the “group self-censorship” mechanism.

Remains to be seen whether Youtube, or its parent, Google, can or will do anything about it. At the very least, maybe someone should go in and flag O’Reilly content as “inappropriate for users with a mental age greater than seven”…


4 thoughts on “Back-Door Censorship And Dirty Tricks On YouTube…

  1. bowerbird

    when somebodysilences somethingthat i approve of,it's "censorship"and "dirty tricks".but when isilence something,it's because it"overstepsthe bounds of civilized argument."-bowerbird

  2. Bill Hill

    Not the same thing at all…I said I would not publish if people overstepped the bounds. Left them free to disagree, as long as they used civil language.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s