Censoring the Internet
In recent weeks, it’s been revealed that YouTube has been demonetizing videos that discuss certain topics, use adult language, and other little things that previously were of no concern. These actions that YouTube has taken against large content creators have left people thinking that Google is beginning to censor what political topics can be tackled. This, while it may be partially true, is exaggerated.
Media censorship in a larger sense is usually done by a government to convince its people of certain ideas. North Korea is the most obvious example, although there are others. Governments can prevent their citizens from hearing negative opinions about their leadership figures and from hearing ideas opposing their agendas. The North Korean government essentially writes its own news. Its citizens have no frame of reference for politics other than what its government tells them. While Google’s recent enforcement of its monetization policy may result in a decrease in politically charged content, it is not quite the same.
Google has started to enforce its rules regarding whether or not a video can have ads roll before it, otherwise known as its advertiser friendly content guidelines. Truthfully, Google had been enforcing these rules for a while now, but only recently made it clear to content creators what was going on. These guidelines state that content creators cannot make videos that use inappropriate language or cover controversial topics if they are to be monetized. Google is trying to regulate content on YouTube in a way similar to how content is regulated on television, but the online community might not be the right place to do that. I can understand why YouTube might not want people to excessively swear in videos on their site, but they have allowed it for so long that some of their most popular content creators have built popular channels that they now live off of by doing exactly these things. Despite how most people make it seem, this problem (much like last year’s complaints about fair use) is not entirely in the hands of Google.
YouTube changed its policy regarding ad-friendly videos because some businesses didn’t want their ads to run before videos that they did not agree with. This includes content that some people might find offensive, or politically charged content. Google did not want to force advertisers to put up with this because then they might not advertise on the site at all. Therefore, they made a sweeping change to the system that affects all channels. Channels whose main focus is to tackle political issues on a regular basis and act as an alternative to radio, television, and written sources can now not sustain themselves if the system does what it says it will do. People who rely on these channels for income will no longer be able to report on and give their opinions about news topics for a living and will have to move on to some other job.
This situation could be classified as corporate censorship, although it is slightly different. People can still make videos about whatever they want, but if a company or individual thinks that its content could be considered offensive by some people, then it will be flagged as inappropriate for ads. This could only become worse as Google rolls out its upcoming YouTube Heroes program. Individuals who disagree with certain ideas will become empowered to harass people who create content that does not align with their beliefs by removing videos and comments. If people become offended so easily upon finding something on the internet that they don’t agree with and are empowered to remove those things from the internet, then the internet will censor itself to the point that all intelligent conversation comes to a grinding halt. The only things left surviving will be cat videos.
One simple suggestion that a Forbes article made to solve this issue was to create a system of tiered ads on YouTube. Some companies could opt to let their ads roll in front of any video, while others could abstain from letting ads run on videos marked as age restricted. If such a policy was put into place, then YouTube would prevent itself from becoming a less peaceful place than it already is.