Friday, January 10, 2020

YouTube apparently promises to allow some monetization of political and "yellow coded" content, reinstates Ford Fischer's channel for partner program; some improvement in EU Article 17 situation

Ironically, at almost the same time I was announced my own plans to scale back starting especially in 2022 (yesterday), there was a significant positive development in free speech yesterday.  Ford Fischer (News2share) announced his channel had been re-monetized, in good faith, by YouTube.

Still the history of all this is very troubling. If you want to review the history, for example, here are three good articles on Gizmodo, The Verge, and the Washington Examiner from last summer on the facts, with some theories.  Human Events has a more psychological explanation that this is Silicon Valley’s establishment wanting to remain its hold on cultural power.   A major theme in most news accounts is that YouTube is unable, with algorithms or workforce, to properly identify meta-speech: that is, distinguish between actual hate speech and journalism that talks about hate speech. 

In summary, YouTube handled the Crowder-Maza-gate fiasco inconsistently (“VoxAdpocalypse), and then very suddenly announced a draconian policy in hate speech June 5; it’s not clear if this was coincidental or directly related to Maza’s manipulations, but it certainly looks like YouTube acted in bad faith.

Moreover, David Pakman has noted that recommendation algorithms no longer choose him, put pick corporate news instead;  several times, Pakman has lost revenue to intentionally bogus DMCA takedowns from major media outlets for live-streaming public domain material.

You see a bigger pattern.  Corporate media’s own protectionism, spread to advertisers on YouTube.

You can make up arguments that as a private platform, YouTube was entitled, at least legally, to exclude content that shows political polarization or hateful behavior by protesters, on the theory that lest sophisticated visitors would never understand the context and get radicalized anyway. It’s rather speculative, although some marginalized groups’ members (especially when congregated) are more endangered by and vulnerable to hate just because of tribal emotion, when stoked, than us elites and individualists want to admit.  (“This may be not be good news but we want to keep you safe….”)   

It sounded to a lot of us that YouTube could have set up a separate playpen for political content (comparable logically to “not made for kids”) and pitched it to advertisers who were more interested in that material. But they have faced resistance, and fielded the idea that raw news gathering is for professionals.  Non-journalists (by profession) were supposed to sell things (like life insurance) and march in protests or give money to candidates and organize rather than just film them and show them up.

YouTube’s chaos wound up, however, hurting minorities’ ability to organize as well as hurting individual speakers.

Ford Fischer has probably frightened mainstream media by showing how he can lead what appears to be a loose association of other journalists and contractors and produce more raw footage content (except in actual war zones) in many areas and showing it than even mainstream media does, at much lower cost. This is called, well, innovation.  Finding more efficient ways to get the work done.  Yes it can slip into the gig economy.  On the other hand, it can upscale and merge with corporate media.  Ford’s original business partner Trey Yingst, from American University (Washington DC) now is a leading foreign correspondent for Fox (at age 26), often in Israel and in conflict areas (like Gaza sometimes), and recently in Baghdad. At a certain point, it becomes impossible to report on large conflict (especially in non-democratic countries) without the resources of major media corporations  (Philadelphia Inquirer story).  

All this suggests that at some point major media outlets will need to employ the content produced by independent providers (which happen’s now with Ford’s material, both as news footage and documentary film material).  Ford also has some material that he may produce or direct himself as film in the usual industry (I’ve suggested he look at film direction, and pointed some places like Bryant Lake Bowl in Minneapolis where indie film creators often meet – a resource I recall from living there before. It’s all too easy to imagine a documentary series called “Protesters” winding up on cable.)

You could say that the “larger” independent news and commentary content creators (David Pakman is a good example, as is Tim Pool, and many others, although many of these do mostly interviews and analysis or commentary as opposed to Ford’s emphasis on raw footage with extensive and long length filming of protest events as is) are creating companies themselves that are likely to become sizable enough to have regular employees, benefits, etc., and become “mid-sized” providers like Vox, Buzzfeed, Vice (or on the conservative side, Breitbart).  They may become corporatized.  An important part of this process will be the ability to get customers to pay for content in a normal commercial sense, outside of donations (patronage) or behavioral advertising (persistent identifiers or cookies and the problems they create for visitor privacy, that are getting even more serious).  

The Human Events link above proposes that platform use be set up legally as a “civil right” to prevent more Maza-Crowder-gates, or to downgrade the false sense of power that Silicon Valley has.  
 I have noted in previous posts that this sort of belief (that you have a right to no gatekeeping) is na├»ve, especially if you consider how the world worked until the late 1990s.   It is likely that eventually platforms like YouTube and even the “free speech” replacements today will windup background-checking (and even “social-credit”) persons who want to broadcast themselves on platforms.  Legitimate commercial viability (in the normal consumer sense) will matter.  However, the larger independent creators (who have built the technical skills and new efficiencies and have some ability to organize or hire others) will probably be OK in this environment, and that would include many of the major “independent” news and commentary channels today.
But, alas, wait, in the midst of COPPA and everything else, in late November, Susan Wojcicki sent a letter to creators saying there will be more effort to match “yellow” rated videos with more narrowly focused advertisers after all, which may “finally” explain YouTube’s finally agreeing to allow News2share (and probably other affected channels) some monetization  “again”. (See the embedded video above.)  Note that the letter, toward the end, notes some recent improvements with behind-the-scenes negotiations with the EU in the interpretation of Article 17 of the Copyright Directive. This is important and I will come back to this in a subsequent post with more details (concerning a platform's downstream liability.)    Somehow, this whole narrative reminds me of my own ninth grade. 

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