Supporting the 2020 U.S. election

Source: YouTube Official Blog.

There are those who say that censorship by private enterprises is both legally and morally acceptable. I certainly agree with that within limits. For example, I certainly agree it is legally and morally acceptable for YouTube to censor child pornography.

But I don’t agree that it is acceptable in any way for YouTube to censor content “that misleads people by alleging that widespread fraud or errors changed the outcome of the 2020 U.S. Presidential election,” as its new policy statement announces.

There are many ways to make the argument in disagreement. One is to note that the Internet itself is a government-provided resource. Because YouTube exploits the resource, it is, in effect an extension of government. As an extension of government, YouTube has an obligation to promote free speech and especially to prevent the occurrence of chilling effects on the exercise of free speech rights (just as government has the same obligation under our Constitution).

More compelling in my view is the moral observation that creating categories of socially approved and socially unapproved ideas is just plain wrong. If you want a workable democracy, unapproved ideas are just as important as approved ones. If you want dialectic that generates useful results (especially in the sciences), the same is true.

But what is the remedy? We don’t want to infringe YouTube’s private property rights for the sake of protecting free speech! We don’t want to idealize the pursuit of knowledge such that, say, child pornography becomes commonplace! No, we don’t want to do those things, but we should be able to see that such things are merely consequences of a solution and not the solution itself.

The solution itself is to recognize that YouTube’s behavior is just not acceptable. That, at least, is the unavoidable first step; there can be no other. Second steps are open to discovery, but will never occur so long as people make excuses for YouTube’s bad behavior.

15 thoughts on “Supporting the 2020 U.S. election

  1. Youtube, and its parent, Google, enjoy liability protections under section 230 on the basis that they are platforms on which others express their views. and not themselves content providers.

    But if they accept the torrent of public input and filter it so only one point of view emerges, they become content providers and the input is merely their medium, like the ink used by a newspaper.

    If the tech platforms take it on themselves to censor input, they should lose their protections and be sued into oblivion.


    1. RE: “If the tech platforms take it on themselves to censor input, they should lose their protections and be sued into oblivion.”

      Makes sense to me. Government/corporate interests might inveigh against that, but Section 230 needs to go.


    2. Oooh. Oooh. We will get our lawyers to sue them. That’s how we get what we want. Where have I seen that tactic before?


      Just go to one of those rightwing platforms that loves alternative facts. You have got plenty to choose from. The sad, but true, fact is that social media has been abused by foreign interests and dishonest Americans to spread lies, misinformation and hatred. It is past time when they started exercising some editorial standards. There is no legal theory that says they have to publish provable FALSEHOODS to preserve their liability-free status.

      It is clear that like many “conservatives” you think you are entitled to your own facts. You are not and nobody has to pretend that your “alternative facts” are just as valid as actual facts.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. If they exercise “editorial standards” then they no longer qualify for protections under section 230.

        That protection was intended for neutral platforms for public discourse.

        But your preference for suppression of views that disagree with yours is duly noted.


    3. If social media loses liability protection, you can bet that the Trumps of the world will be banned as they heap slander and lies about people.

      Social media, being responsible for the insults, will just stop posting them. And anything they might consider risky.
      So then the conspiracy nuts and other folks will have to post elsewhere, except those sites will also be vulnerable for suits. And without the money the majors have, they are gone.

      Be careful what you wish for.

      Conservatives are threatening to move to Parler and other places where they are welcome. What is wrong with that?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. First, there is considerable peril to the marketplace of ideas if we all isolate ourselves in bubbles of groupthink.

        Again, all they need to do is to return to being a neutral platform for all views, limiting only obscenity and incitement to violence.

        But if they decide their role is to decide what views are worthy of being considered in the marketplace, then they become responsible for those choices.


        1. Of course the peril is the silo effect for political ideas.

          But isn’t the classic free market solution to vote with your feet?

          And I know you are not going to like this, but a good argument could be made the #LIBERATE has encouraged uncivil behavior, not just that phrase, but others that lead to armed citizenry surrounding elected officials’ homes, storming the statehouse, sending death threats, and the like.

          To me, that is inciting violence, particularly if the source is a powerful person with millions of followers.

          What about Antifa saying they are gathering at Main and Granby for a rally of conservatives. No violence is mentioned, but you know better.

          Is saying the pandemic is a hoax a political statement or harmful to the public sphere?

          So it comes down to this. Are social media not allowed to set parameters other than just child porn and orders to attack.

          Not easy, but again, the market can provide if other sites are less restrictive.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Social media can indeed set whatever parameters they choose, but not if they want to keep the liability protections afforded specifically to neutral platforms.

            If they want to control the conversation, then the public has no obligation to protect them from the consequences of becoming participants in the marketplace instead of facilitators of the communication.


          2. RE: “But isn’t the classic free market solution to vote with your feet?”

            This is an important observation. To vote with one’s feet is to exercise one’s own freedom and personal agency. But voting with one’s feet presupposes that one has recognized a problem that merits the action.

            I propose that too many people don’t see or appreciate the problem with YouTube’s policy of active censorship. Specifically, the policy is to disallow speach on the basis of a certain idea that speech contains.

            I see the policy as immoral, but many others make excuses for it. It is the excuse-making that needs to stop.


          3. “ But voting with one’s feet presupposes that one has recognized a problem that merits the action.”

            Are you saying that most people using YouTube are too ignorant or that they see greater benefit from watching videos and posting their own than worrying about some political commentary from the extremes.

            Either way, it is a personal choice.

            Either case is

            Liked by 1 person

        2. You are confusing “views” with facts. Deliberately. Differing views are fine and healthy but “alternative facts” have no legitimate place in the “marketplace of ideas.”

          The claim that Donald Trump lost the election because of massive voter fraud is not a “view.” It is an “alternative fact” with no anchor in reality. A media company screening out such bullshit is good for the health of that “marketplace of ideas.” We can then exchange and defend views based on shared facts.

          BTW, you need to work on self-awareness before you pontificate about “bubbles of groupthink.”

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Nice dodge, I guess. But the issue that is being addressed is the spreading of utter falsehoods. I suppose anyone whose whole world view and political philosophy is built on a foundation of “alternative facts” does not like to see those “facts” repudiated by important companies like YouTube or Facebook.

            Liked by 1 person

          2. As I read through this back and forth I kept having the same reaction pertaining to the ridiculous problem with the difficulty some people have with understanding what a “fact” is vice an opinion.

            I think if we could get back to a common understanding of reality the debate would settle itself, but I’m not hopeful given the current climate. If the cult’s “fever” ever breaks, maybe then.

            Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s