Inadvertently demanding YouTube ramp up its censorship of conservatives, The New York Times published a hit piece Sunday warning about the ideological threat “neo-nazi” conservative media figures pose by having a presence on the video-sharing platform, particularly amongst young white males.
The article titled, “The Making of a YouTube Radical,” features Caleb Cain who details how he “fell down the alt-right rabbit hole,” “was brainwashed” and is now “scarred” after having been “radicalized” by a “decentralized cult of the far-right” on YouTube.
Caleb explains that he was a liberal college drop-out and a gamer who began watching self-help videos on YouTube when he became indoctrinated by “alt-right” commentators, including InfoWars’ Paul Joseph Watson, Canadian podcaster Stephen Molyneux and conservative journalist Lauren Southern who he nicknamed his “fascist-bae.”
“I just kept falling deeper and deeper into this, and it appealed to me because it made me feel a sense of belonging,” he told the Times. “I was brainwashed.”
About five years after his so-called indoctrination by the “vortex of far-right politics on YouTube,” Cain said he became repulsed by right-wing “extremists,” became leftist activist and began receiving death threats for repudiating the conservative movement.
“Cain pulled a Glock pistol from his waistband, took out the magazine and casually tossed both onto the kitchen counter,” the Times’ Kevin Roose wrote. “The threats, Mr. Cain explained, came from right-wing trolls in response to a video he had posted on YouTube a few days earlier. In the video, he told the story of how, as a liberal college dropout struggling to find his place in the world, he had gotten sucked into a vortex of far-right politics on YouTube.”
White males are most vulnerable to becoming brainwashed by the far-right “bigotry” on YouTube, Roose warns.
“Over years of reporting on internet culture, I’ve heard countless versions of Mr. Cain’s story: an aimless young man — usually white, frequently interested in video games — visits YouTube looking for direction or distraction and is seduced by a community of far-right creators,” he wrote. “Some young men discover far-right videos by accident, while others seek them out. Some travel all the way to neo-Nazism, while others stop at milder forms of bigotry.”
YouTube has deleted Alex Jones and InfoWars’ channel from its platform and is facing a lawsuit by Prager University for censoring the conservative non-profit’s video content. YouTube has also banned Gavin McInnes. Yet, the video-sharing service is not adequately using its algorithms to prevent “dangerous” conservative content from being monetized and viewed, Roose argues.
“YouTube has inadvertently created a dangerous on-ramp to extremism by combining two things: a business model that rewards provocative videos with exposure and advertising dollars, and an algorithm that guides users down personalized paths meant to keep them glued to their screens,” he cautions.
YouTube is provoking its users to explore “Crazytown” to generate more ad-revenue, Tristan Harris, a former design ethicist at Google, YouTube’s parent company told the Times.
“There’s a spectrum on YouTube between the calm section — the Walter Cronkite, Carl Sagan part — and Crazytown, where the extreme stuff is,” Harris said. “If I’m YouTube and I want you to watch more, I’m always going to steer you toward Crazytown.”
Like many Silicon Valley companies, YouTube is outwardly liberal in its corporate politics. It sponsors floats at L.G.B.T. pride parades and celebrates diverse creators, and its chief executive endorsed Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election. President Trump and other conservatives have claimed that YouTube and other social media networks are biased against right-wing views, and have used takedowns like those announced by YouTube on Wednesday as evidence for those claims.
YouTube is allowing “inflammatory,” “hyper-partisans,” like Watson and Molyneux, to “bypass traditional gatekeepers,” hijack its algorithms and espouse white nationalism and become a recruiting tool for far-right extremist groups, Roose laments.
“In reality, YouTube has been a godsend for hyper-partisans on all sides. It has allowed them to bypass traditional gatekeepers and broadcast their views to mainstream audiences, and has helped once-obscure commentators build lucrative media businesses,” he writes.
Conservatives are unfairly advantaged by YouTubes monetization and evolving algorithms, Roose argued.
“The far right was well positioned to capitalize on the changes. Many right-wing creators already made long video essays, or posted video versions of their podcasts. Their inflammatory messages were more engaging than milder fare,” he writes. “And now that they could earn money from their videos, they had a financial incentive to churn out as much material as possible.
“A few progressive YouTube channels flourished from 2012 to 2016. But they were dwarfed by creators on the right, who had developed an intuitive feel for the way YouTube’s platform worked and were better able to tap into an emerging wave of right-wing populism.”
Many on the right, especially deplatformed conservatives, would disagree with Roose and the premise of the New York Times article.
Having a different opinion doesn’t mean that everything other than your opinion is “extreme and radical”, and fortunately the facts are on the side of Conservatives in this case. There is a censorship problem in Silicon Valley, and tech executives are inherently more Left-wing in their politics and decision making.
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