YouTube’s Failed Ban Shows Why Internet Censorship is Doomed to Fail

YouTube’s Failed Ban Shows Why Internet Censorship is Doomed to Fail, by Daniel Greenfield.

Content moderation is expensive and ugly. The content that really needs to be moderated isn’t political, it’s violent and sexual, running the gamut from videos of bloody car crashes to pedophilia. The cheapest way to do content moderation is to outsource it to a third world country where the staff won’t have to be paid as much and where their therapy bills won’t show up in Silicon Valley.

But you can’t expect a content moderator in the Philippines to understand the difference between a history lesson about Hitler and a video glorifying Nazi Germany, or a video documenting a hate rally and one celebrating it.

Even gore and sexual content require cultural judgement calls. Should the infamous photo of the ‘Napalm Girl’ be censored? Facebook did in 2016. …

The political effect:

Censorship is futile on the global scale. Anyone who genuinely wants to bypass YouTube’s restrictions will. What it actually does is deplatform and demonetize successful conservative content creators. … For Steven Crowder, one of YouTube’s targets, the demonetization is devastating.

That’s true not only of YouTube, but of social media censorship of conservatives in general.

Censorship can’t truly shut down conservatives, but it keeps conservative voices from having a secure foothold in social media, while offering every possible benefit and subsidy to their leftist rivals.

Any active conservative knows that he can be silenced, at any moment, by a motivated crybullying campaign backed by lefty media outlets, as Crowder was, or by the sweep of the algorithmic scythe. The overall effect is to make it clear that the internet and social media are the native territory of leftists. Conservatives can only be occasional trespassers, living on the internet as tokens or guerrillas. …

Policy smokescreen and selective enforcement:

The new YouTube policy cracks down on “videos alleging that a group is superior in order to justify discrimination, segregation or exclusion based on qualities like age, gender, race, caste, religion, sexual orientation or veteran status.” Will that policy be applied to videos like, “White People are Evil”, “Dear White People, Kill Yourself Now”, and “All White People are Racist”? The Nation of Islam’s YouTube channel is humming along with offerings like, “Critical Thinking Outlawed as Anti-Semitism”.

Taken literally, it would ban a video arguing for raising the drinking age or the driving age.

But policies like these are not meant to be taken literally, they’re something to point to so that the censorship of conservatives appears to be the result of impartial rules, rather than partisan malice. …


One man’s disinformation network is another man’s advocacy campaign. One woman’s troll is another woman’s impassioned activist. Tactics, such as paid accounts and sock puppets, are used by all sides.

Information is disinformation if you disagree with it. Activism can be trolling if you don’t like its message.

The vagueness isn’t a bug, it’s a feature.

When the rules are unclear, all the standards are double standards. Dot coms hide behind the illusion of policy when, as Steven Crowder’s case revealed, their responses aren’t determined by written policies, but by pressure campaigns and gut reactions, with the policies as little more than retroactive excuses. …

Freedom of speech:

There is a more American solution that wouldn’t turn us into an obscene Orwellian cartoon. It’s called freedom of speech.

Freedom of speech means letting people say whatever they want as long as they aren’t engaging in criminal behavior like sending death threats, molesting children or otherwise breaking the law.

The internet, and dot coms like YouTube, weren’t built through the careful curation of content by a discerning publisher, but as platforms for everyone. …

YouTube as a platform works, but will fail as a publisher:

The censorship of the internet is a futile project conducted in bad faith for bad purposes. Like the censorship projects of every totalitarian regime and ideology, it will fail. The only question is how many people will be hurt along the way. Speech can’t be stopped. People, individually, can be destroyed. …

It takes more energy to censor than to speak. Hunting down and silencing people you don’t like is a lot more work than making your own argument. Entropy is not on the side of the speech suppressors. …

YouTube tried to dam the river. But the river, the billions of hours of video, will always overflow.