|Capitol 4th, 2016|
In the past 24 hours, YouTube has behaved again in a knee-jerk reaction.
It had taken down a video by Ford Fischer on News2Share which showed the crowd (or mob) near the Capitol on January 6 reacting to Trump’s speech (“I’ll be with you…”) trying to disrupt Congress’s certification of the electoral college vote.
Then, in a long series of tweets and replies (and I added a few myself, more of that in a moment) YouTube maintained that a video that shows people articulating challenges to the validity of the electoral vote result without context within the video showing that these claims are now untrue, can not remain online. The YouTube maintained that one reason (why context in description in insufficient) os that videos can be emedded in other online blog posts, which are not guaranteed to explain the context. But, for example, you can code the embed parameters so as to guarantee that the “Watch on YouTube” link appears inside the embedded image so that the visitor can read context in the description.
YouTube could also allow creators to disable embedding for specific videos, as has been done in the past.
Or it could except overstrike text in the video. But if you took some of YT's tweets literally, every video would have to present opposing views within the video, or else refutation of false (election) claims within each video. That would affect me, as I made a number of short videos of "stop the steal" demonstrations in November, well before the courts and state audits had completed certifications (and before the Electoral College vote)
The Daily Dot gives a detailed narrative about Ford and several other journalists and channels, and spares me reproducing all the details. You can look at Ford’s Twitter feed and at mine (@JBoushka) directed at @TeamYouTube but there is a great deal of detail going back and forth to follow. Ford’s tweets and the Daily Dot eventually lead to the fact that much of this material is evidence for the impeachment (formal charge). Furthermore, various news outlets have licensed “on the ground” footage from Ford, as have several documentary films.
Then, this afternoon (literally while I watched an EFF livestream) YouTube demonetized the whole #News2share channel. Then an hour later, in another tweet, Youtube agreed to take another look at it. In the recent past, YouTube has hinted that it might close channels that are not likely to become “commercially viable” for them, which would terminate my channel, at least as it is set up now.
News2share went through all this in 2019 for seven months, caught accidentally in the Crowder-Maza duel (adpocalypse). I learned about YT’s reversal on a Sunday in December 2019 when I was sitting in my favorite coffee shop in Harper’s Ferry W Va after filming the aftermath of a train wreck there (when no one else in my own cohort did).
YouTube seems to believe that the larger corporate channels automatically guarantee context in the way they are set up with viewers. Smaller creators cannot do that readily. We depend on visitors to look at a variety of videos or blog posts (which can be related by label or tag; I wish videos could be also) from one creator to get the context.
One of Ford’s tweets noted that corporate media tends to turning controversial material into shouting matches, as CNN and Fox go after each other. That, he says, is not genuine context. Viewers should understand that news footage of protests is exactly that – private citizens joining together in movements, often tribal, to express commonly held views which may not be literally correct.
Although some of YouTube’s conversation with Ford and others is about specific policies regarding election results, others have to do with “controversial issues”.
YouTube is rattled by the fact that its content creators take on controversy individually rather than in leaving activism to conventional non-profits who “organize” people; it also wants to see creators do lifestyle or commercial material, ignoring the reality that right now Covid has turned a lot of that upsidedown. Remember it’s “commercial viability” clause? This doesn’t make sense during a pandemic, which is essentially “wartime”.
Some younger creators, in fact, particularly “college” channel, do very well with this kind of content, because the circumstances favor their setting up channels with the right balance of lifestyle and serious issues (John Fish, Max Reisinger) while offering legitimate commercial sales opportunities that aren’t pushy (Perspectopia). But this is generally not easy. I have, for example, have talked about national security issues because in the past I worked on gays in the military and expanded from that. That has led Facebook to ask me why I don’t have advertisers vouching for me, as if I should offer people volume discounts on my books (that isn’t really feasible now with older material) or sell Faraday sleeves to protect laptops from future pulse attacks (a doomsday prepper idea, but sounding asinine as a business to push on people!)
I’ve had other brushes with the “context” problem, which keeps coming back, as with an incident that happened when I was substitute teaching (see July 27, 2007 post).
Roberto Blake has an interesting video, “Social Media is Over” (although he has other videos explaining how to make YouTube channels work) and explains the value of going back to your own hosted website and email lists. That was the theme of Blogtyrant in the past. But can any small business make it without being on the big corporate platforms, which have a monopoly on audiences? Do people want to be on email lists, given the security risks to them? And now even webhosts are feeling the pressure of the cultural wars (see Jan 16).
Update: Sputniknews has another account of this and discusses Jamal Thomas, who is actually a progressive. Ford Fischer now reports that Fox News (Joseph A. Wulfsohn) has reported his story with screenshot details.
Update Feb 5: Ford reports that his channel is monetized again.