If you've followed me for long enough you know I rarely (if ever) make any sort of politics related posts. Only one that comes to mind was a post I made last year during the election (I have since deleted that post because it is no longer relevant since the election is over) but aside from that I've kept my content largely politics free with the exception being for in-universe politics as they relate to fanfiction universes (e.g. such as how the Mandalorian Government works, how the Republic operates, etc.) and I do have to give you all my respect, gratitude, and appreciation for keeping the comment threads clear of real-world politics and real-world issues. I do enjoy providing some form of escapism that people on all sides of the political spectrum can enjoy.
However this is an issue that I feel I cannot be silent about and I go into this post headlong knowing that this could cost me some readers. But this subject is far more important than mere fanfiction readership.
I consider myself a free speech advocate. I do not believe in censorship when it comes to ideology and intellectual diversity. Are there good forms of censorship? Depends on the context. I self-censor expletives which is for the sake of keeping my content family friendly (for the most part). We do, occasionally get into dark themes, but as I said in a prior journal entry, I will never go into explicit depictions. There is also comedic censorship, such as the infamous "the Count: Censored" video which is basically when censorship is used for comedic effect. That is acceptable. But when it comes to the censorship of differing viewpoints, that is where I draw the line.
I believe that to win the war of ideas for either side, you have to prove your points in open debate instead of shutting down debate and silencing the other side so that there is no debate. Even if I disagree with your views, you have every right to have them and to speak them openly and freely and the same is true in reverse. I believe that if there is a person giving a speech you object to, simply don't attend, change the channel, or maybe attend and quietly listen to the opposing viewpoint but don't try and shut the speech down or disrupt it. Be respectful of other's opinions. It's how free speech should operate. Don't agree with a subject? Debate it (without name calling or insults because one of the first rules of debates is, the first side to stoop to insults loses) or simply walk away/don't attend/change the channel.
What prompted this you might be asking?
Recently, YouTube announced a new program that would crackdown on "extremist" content. While most people would think that means a crackdown on known terrorist groups and keep them from using YT such as ISIL, Hamas, Al-Qaeda, and others, the reality of it is, that the true purpose of this move was to put specific channels that hold certain viewpoints into a sort of "limbo" where their videos are forced out of YT's recommended feed, they get their likes/dislikes bar disabled, their view count disabled, demonetized, they're barred from the trending page, and they get relegated to a sort of purgatory for YT and already the first waves of these "shadow bans" have hit with numerous YouTubers discovering (without any notification at all) that their videos have been hit with the aforementioned "disablings" and are effectively on their way to this YT Purgatory.
Have I personally been affected by this? Not personally, no. I have a YT account, yes, but I have no videos or content. I simply keep the account for keeping track of my favorite videos and YouTubers. But to see some of them being effectively told that "you aren't welcome because we don't agree with you" or "you aren't welcome because you hurt mine or someone's feelings" crosses several lines in my book.
Some of you are probably already saying "well, YT is owned by Google and Google is a private company so they can do what they want." Legally, that is true but they are a monopoly and they control one of the biggest platforms on the planet. But this action, as well as other actions taken by Google within the past week, are a clear message to the world that Google/YouTube does not support the concept of Free Speech. They've made it abundantly clear that they accept only a specific type of thought and only a specific system of beliefs and that anything that contradicts or opposes those thoughts or beliefs are not welcome on their platforms. They do not believe in the universal marketplace of ideas, they do not believe in intellectual diversity, and they will punish you if you oppose their stances on these subjects. Such a practice of shutting down debate should be universally frowned upon and discouraged by those who value freedom of speech. Debate should continue openly and freely.
For some of us, I think we saw this coming since hindsight is 20/20. I think the first red flag (that I noticed) that this could become a thing was back when Google was willing to allow censorship on their Chinese platform. If Google was willing to bow and drink the poison of censorship just to enter business with China, that should've been a red flag. Then there was the "YouTube Heroes" system which was roundly opposed for good reason as the potential for abuse was quite extreme. Then there was the "adpocolips" where YouTubers that had monetized content suddenly found their content demonetized all because the sponsors complained to YT that their ads were appearing on videos that they "objected to" or didn't want associated with their products (because technically the ads were randomly selected for monetized videos, the YouTubers didn't get to pick and choose what ads played), which caused some backlash, and now there is this.
I have gone so far as to close my Facebook account (which I already didn't like for different and unrelated reasons) over their willingness to censor when they rolled out their "Fake News Filtering" program. I personally believe that we have the right to believe what we want to believe. We have the right to choose who we trust and who we distrust. We have just as much right to believe the New York Times as real news as we do the National Inquirer as real news. It is our choice to trust these sources or not, not to have a 3rd party arbitrarily decide what is fake and what is real. We have the right to be wrong as well as right. Facebook's actions with the "Fake News Filter," regardless of their motivations and who was affected, was the first noticeable step on the slippery slope of censorship. For that I closed my account with them last year and haven't regretted it in the slightest. I similarly don't have a Twitter account due to their willingness to censor there as well.
So now there's the question of "what can we do?" I'll be honest, our options are limited. There are a few alternate video hosting services such as Minds.com (www.minds.com/) and Vid.me (vid.me/) that act as video hosting services. Granted, they don't have as big of a reach as YouTube does but given time and Google/YT's now full-throated opposition to free speech, these platforms might see a surge in users while YT sees a decline which will force competition. And I will say, my first impression of Minds is quite positive as it says on their main page that they are committed to Free Speech, which to me is important.
Additionally, use alternative search engines such as Bing or Yahoo. Are they as good as Google? Maybe not but as with the video services, as users leave Google/YT to these other platforms, their quality may start to improve to equal if not surpass that of Google/YT. Also, if you have a gmail account, close it and create a new account with someone else such as Yahoo, Hotmail, or other email services and don't forget to transition any user accounts on services such as Steam, EA Origin, Blizzard, etc. that might be linked to your gmail to your new account.
You can always support your favorite content creators directly, most of them have Patreon accounts or PayPal and so if you can and want to support them, by all means but don't feel obligated to help. Only contribute if you want to. Quick disclaimer: I don't have a Patreon or PayPal account because what I do, I do for fun and not for profit so I will never charge for my work. Your reading my work and enjoying it is profit enough for me (besides, I'm pretty sure making a profit off of fanfiction would get into copyright violation territory and I'd rather not be sued or slapped with a C&D notice ).
If there is some content on Google/YT that you don't want to stop watching (which I admit, there is some that I don't quite want to give up just yet), I encourage you to use adblock software (adblockplus.org/) which will make you invisible and will deny ad views to YouTube and Google which is one of the ways they make money.
So to conclude this longwinded post, I leave you with this quote by Wilfred Funk which I consider to be quite true as to why we need freedom of speech and the platforms to practice it...
"When words fail, wars begin. When wars finally end, we settle our disputes with words."