If you’re old enough to remember when Google first emerged in your online/computing consciousness as the most exciting new thing – then that means you may just be old enough to actually easily understand the context of technology and its “long arm,” the internet.
It means you have a power that people who haven’t been there don’t: to have seen this thing, Google, first flicker on your computer screen in the late 90s to replace AltaVista and Yahoo as an actually exciting alternative – yes, Google was the internet’s original “alt-tech” – and then, to watch it devolve into a tool of vicious politicking and censorship.
To cut the long story short: it’s sad. And also – if you want to get a condensed view of exactly how sad it is – and a second chance to actually see videos that have been censored, because they are still accessible and searchable there – look no further than altCensored.com – that shows you what one of Google’s prime properties, the video giant YouTube, very much wants to hide.
And it’s not just any content you might expect a platform as gargantuan as YouTube to have had to come across, and legally be in need of removing.
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No – this project is documenting YouTube’s decisions to abuse a massive gray zone in its own rules to limit or remove access to videos that are “neither illegal, nor violate YouTube’s Terms and Conditions or Community Guidelines.”
Yet this content is actively undermined on the platform. In YouTube/Googlespeak, it is “limited.” In this case it might as well read as, “put in limbo.” That’s because these videos and/or channels are flagged with warning messages slapped onto them, while users cannot share, like or comment.
These videos exist in this zombie state where YouTube has not exactly killed them – because it has no grounds to – but where they are not actually alive, either, as they cannot display view counts or be recommended to others. Not to mention monetize in any way. Although, these days, Google is increasingly removing videos altogether instead of putting them in a limited state, the creator of altCensored says.
altCensored.com is a “an unbiased community catalog” of 40,539 videos, and that means those are either removed by YouTube, or sadder still, self-censored. Most videos are hosted by archive.org and then cataloged on the site.
Like some first (and likely, last) responders to a nasty accident, altCensored details the state of affairs in clinical terms: “Of 5,524 monitored channels, 727 have been deleted and 1,574 are being archived in case of deletion.”
The creator of the site shared with us how it started and his plans for the future.
When did you start altCensored and why?
I started it in February 2019 because the internet that I helped build (albeit in a small way) had become dominated by gigantic players who were vacuuming up all types of information at an alarming rate, and increasingly dictating what could or could not be said.
I began my career in technology selling HP personal computers to businesses door to door in NYC in 1984.
I worked for a NYC bank in tech support, then the world’s 2nd/3rd largest computer company at the time (Digital Equip Corp.) for 7 years, before starting my own tech consulting company in Atlanta, Georgia.
We became a corporate Internet Service Provider (ISP) for non-profits, small businesses, hospitals, and a Fortune 100 client until the sale to a public company in late 1999.
The “IP on everything” internet that we helped small organizations use to share info, exactly like their largest corporate competitors, is not recognizable to me today. It has become a global mass surveillance tool wielded by enormous unchecked monopolies and increasingly authoritarian governments.
I believe that governments have always surreptitiously collected information to a degree (Telex, SWIFT, etc). The difference now is the sheer quantity of info (everything) and the number of people (the planet).
What plans do you have for the future?
- Generate more community channel suggestions to keep the site unbiased and community-based.
- Increase traffic to the site through alliances with like-minded groups and people, like reclaimthenet.org!
- Find like-minded people to open source and improve the site, including API access to feature the videos on other sites, and user experience (playlists, user accounts, etc).
altCensored is one of the up-and-coming platforms that are helping to do their part to end censorship online, especially as Big Tech is becoming ever-increasingly strident in deciding what people are allowed to see.