YouTube is nixing any content that contradicts the findings of the World Health Organization. This is a conversation I had a week or so ago, about what sort of accountability do search engine companies and social media companies have to the public who uses their free-of-charge services?
The argument made is because YouTube is free they can pick and choose their content, much like a radio station picks and chooses what they play on the airwaves. If you don’t like Rhianna, you can find a station that doesn’t play Rhianna or you can have your own radio station and choose not to play Rhianna.
That logic is mistaken and misleading, though. Without going into long detail, people are not dependent on a radio station to connect to the world. This comment itself is a good example.
People are dependent on Google, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, etc. for (selective) news, entertainment, and during this lockdown, basic human connection. This scope and ramifications of social media and search engines is so much more invasive than a radio station.
And, if done properly, a citizen has a reasonable opportunity to have their own radio station to play everything but Rhianna. Can the same be said for duplicating YouTube, Google, and Facebook? That is a rhian… soz, a rhetorical question.
Accountability. The idea of “It’s my sandbox so it’s my rules” fails on many levels, and keeping with a radio station comparison, the Google & Gang lacks any degree of accountability.
The FCC regulates radio broadcast stations. But that assumes the FCC has any authority beyond the US of A borders. And there are some who feel First Amendment rights are violated in deleting anything contrary to WHO declarations. Remember, the internet doesn’t end at the US of A borders. This is about global accountability.
There is global accountability to free exchange of ideas with the caveat people will pick and choose what they want to know and believe anyway, and this is a conversation to be had once this pandemic rodeo draws to a close. This a global conversation on global responsibility that’s been a long time needed and for all the selective reasons highlighted by information exchange because of and during the pandemic.
These tech giants are responsible for global public confidence. And they respect this confidence like a kid with a can of Play-doh.
“Impossible!” is a good punchline to the joke “How do you fact check during the pandemic?” It’s only impossible if what’s available is selective and not comprehensive. This is what we’re living with YouTube making any WHO dissent part of their Terms Of Service.
Expressimg a personal judgment, because the world’s population is so dependent on the internet for communication and information, this emerging and disturbing practice of unrefereed selective distribution is dangerous and unethical. It’s nothing more than propaganda in the hands in the hands of the private sector. Orwell never got around to a predictive tome on this nightmare future world.
There is a necessary conversation coming about enforced public safety accountability. There’s no avoiding this is a threat to public safety. It’s not closing argument hyperbole. This is now real.
Amusingly, treating these Tech Giants as sovereign nations and imparting economic sanctions might be the method to exact change in the public good. These Tech Giant private companies love their money.