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Critics of YouTube’s business and tactics, specifically those coming from the conservative portion of the US politics and society, repeatedly cry foul declaring this Google-owned, super influential platform as one that is habitually using its power to sway users – effectively towards its own vast preference as a global video giant.
But could YouTube at the same time be deliberately putting in many roadblocks, some more subtle than others – all the way to the ultimate goal of suppressing legitimate, conservative online voices?
The evidence seems to point that way.
This question has not merely been an ongoing accusation made by observers and active participants who theorize bad intent on the part of Big Tech – but in fact, this has also been a question put forward by some Google insiders, in their public testimonies that support similar claims – all boiling down to accusing YouTube of being motivated by bias, fueled by some very real world politics and allegiances.
And that activity, if true, would be something very disappointing to normal users not only in the US, but around the world – where the myth of an objective, knowledge-based, data-driven, scientific search result might still be strong with Google and its various services.
That said – the case of comedian and political commentator Steven Crowder might, overall, provide one of the most obvious examples clearly proving the accusation of YouTube employing a negative, multi-pronged approach to what the social media giant sees as the “problem” – namely, suppressing online opinions it disagrees with – but doing it on ideological and political grounds.
Granted – in an ideal world and a true democracy, this is not even something that should emerge as a “problem” – after all, a democracy’s genuine freedom of speech and a capitalist system’s genuine transactional nature should be enough to satisfy both parties in any YouTube/Creator relationship.
Nevertheless, something is clearly amiss – and here we are, just over a year ahead of the next US presidential election, looking at how Google/YouTube are choosing to position themselves within their own “truth.”
Right now, Steven Crowder’s YouTube channel is emerging as the “poster child” for all the different ways YouTube might go after creators it eventually seems to want to squeeze out of the platform – while not exactly deciding to outright remove them.
If a creator clearly violated YouTube’s terms of service and/or guidelines, they would be an easy to ban. But if, like in Crowder’s case, the platform had no objective reason to get rid of them – the platform seems to just continues to look for other ways to downgrade their content.
YouTube’s actions, and the aftermath
Earlier in the year, YouTube “demonetized” Crowder’s channel – after the comedian’s brand of humor happened to mash badly with that of a rival content creator, Carlos Maza. Long story short: YouTube at the time erred on the side of censorship and demonetized Crowder’s channel – without outright banning him.
But now, YouTube seems to be fighting its ideological enemies far more subtly by making them dissipate all the way to disappearing in that all-important segment – the search results.
In a new video this week, Crowder tells his followers about YouTube’s latest censorship tactic – “and what it means for the channel, as well as for the rest of the conservative movement.”
YouTube’s policy, Crowder explains, means that while subscribed audience members might be as present as ever, and providing as many clicks on videos as before – and often more than before – conservative channels such as his are finding it super difficult to grow their audiences right now.
This sounds illogical: a channel like Crowder’s, that has managed to grow views on its videos nearing a million views per clip – easily squeezing out progressive favorites like “The Young Turks” – must also surely be able to grow its own subscriber base on YouTube? Apparently, not so.
Crowder says in the video that this is indeed not the case – and expressing doubt that this highly unlikely turn of events might have happened as anything “organic” on the internet. Overall Crowder’s recommendations from YouTube are down.
In fact – he found out that searches on YouTube for “Steven Crowder” consistently returned results for pretty much anything – such as mentions and references in other creators’ videos – but not results to his actual channel. The same was true for other conservative commentators and organizations.
In the wake of this, some progress has been made, judging by Crowder’s recent tweet – and others, like political commentator Mark Dice who tweeted – to say that YouTube “has quietly fixed it. FINALLY.” Crowder highlighted how the search results looked before and after his lawyer contacted YouTube about the issue.
Dice’s original complaint had to do with YouTube burying results about his own channel at the bottom of any search of his own name – something that appeared to be a common enough tactic on the part of YouTube.