Crowder’s offense involved calling Vox journalist Carlos Maza a “lispy queer” and a “gay Vox sprite,” leading, says Maza, to further harassment. Much press commentary either cheered YouTube’s move or called it belated.
Simultaneously, YouTube announced it would ban whole genres of videos that fell under a hate/conspiracy label. From a Yahoo news summary:
“YouTube announced Wednesday it would ban videos promoting or glorifying racism and discrimination as well as those denying well-documented violent events, like the Holocaust or the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting.”
“Channels that repeatedly brush up against our hate speech policies will be suspended under our YouTube Partner Program.”
Many greeted these stories with a shrug. If blue-state audiences even know who Steven Crowder is, they think he’s a jerk. And what could be wrong with removing videos “denying well-documented violent events”?
At least two big things, as it turns out:
1. Platforms may not distinguish between reporting on hate speech, and promoting it
A site called News2Share, run by journalist Ford Fischer, was removed by YouTube this week under the new plan. Fischer received a notice:
“We found that a significant portion of your channel is not in line with our YouTube Partner Program policies.”
Fischer was one of the first people I spoke with for a Rolling Stone story about Internet censorship published last year. His site acts as a kind of clearing house for political footage of all kinds, including demonstrations, marches, police misconduct and even flash mobs.
News2Share content spans the spectrum: the site currently contains everything from a protest against the “Barr Coverup” of the Mueller report, to pro-Assange protests in Britain, to a square-off between gun militias and Antifa in Ohio.
It’s valuable, original journalism, not aggregated clickbait.
“Almost the entire channel is video shot by me, or someone I hire,” Fischer says.
Two videos apparently determined his fate under the new program. One involved a pro-Israel activist and pro-Palestine activist arguing with a Holocaust denier. The second was video of a speech given by white nationalist Mike “Enoch” Peinovich.
Fischer says that “while unpleasant,” the footage is “essential research for history.” It was even used as part of a PBS documentary called “Charlottesville.” Fischer was listed as an executive producer in the film.
His work regularly appears in documentaries about subcultures of all types, including the Frontline series “Documenting Hate” (you can see him credited just above Getty Images at the end). Fischer’s videos have even appeared in Vox.
Now his work has been removed because the new policy does not distinguish between showing a Holocaust denier or a white supremacist, and being one. Fischer describes the first video that got him in trouble, which showed Antifa protesters arguing with a Holocaust denier: “While it’s true that the Holocaust denier says Holocaust-denier stuff,” he says, “this is raw vid documenting him being shut down.”
Being demonetized on YouTube will deal a blow to Fischer’s business. He says YouTube ad revenue is “about half of my reliable, baseline income,” the rest coming from Patreon.
The Fischer case speaks to the inherent inanity of asking nameless, faceless Silicon Valley overlords to weigh things like journalistic intent. While there’s an argument to be had about clamping down on the purveyors of hate speech, what social or journalistic purpose is served by concealing the existence of such people? And what possible rationale could there be for allowing PBS or a commercial news network to publish such videos, but not smaller shooters like Fischer?
As part of the new program, YouTube also pulled down a video published by the Southern Poverty Law Center. In it, journalist Max Blumenthal interviewed Holocaust denier David Irving. Blumenthal quickly said the removal program had “gone beyond its stated aim” to “carpet-bombing style censorship.”
Blumenthal, like many of the people targeted in removal campaigns, is a controversial figure who has been a consistent critic of U.S. policy. He worried that such deletions are “just a test balloon for a much wider campaign to suppress content by dissenting voices.”