While the evolution of Google’s YouTube from a free expression platform into something entirely different has been underway for a while, it just took another step in a very short-sighted and restrictive direction. NBC News reports:
YouTube has announced that it will no longer recommend videos that “come close to” violating its community guidelines, such as conspiracy or medically inaccurate videos…Chaslot said that YouTube’s fix to its recommendations AI will have to include getting people to videos with truthful information and overhauling the current system it uses to recommend videos.
There’s a lot to unpack here so let’s get started. First, it appears YouTube has announced the creation of a new bucket when it comes to content uploaded to the site. It’s no longer just videos consistent with company guidelines and those that aren’t, but there’s now a category for “conspiracy or medically inaccurate videos.” This is a massive responsibility, which neither YouTube or anyone else seems fit to be judge and jury. In other words, YouTube is saying it’s comfortable deciding what is “conspiracy” and what isn’t. Which brings up a really important question.
So no videos of government officials lying the public into wars, or is that the Silicon Valley approved type conspiracy? https://t.co/mUEQGMlLyr
— Michael Krieger (@LibertyBlitz) February 11, 2019
“Conspiracy” and covering up conspiracies is a fundamental part of the human experience, and always has been. It demonstrates extreme hubris for a tech giant to claim it can differentiate between a legitimate conspiracy to explore, versus an illegitimate one. One person’s righteous investigation is another’s conspiracy theory, with Russiagate serving as an obvious contemporary example.
Going back to the early 21st century, we witnessed a major conspiracy to start a war in Iraq based on lies; lies which were endlessly repeated uncritically throughout the mass media. Even worse, General Wesley Clark described an even larger conspiracy which consisted of starting multiple additional wars in the aftermath of 9/11. This conspiracy is ongoing and has continued to move forward in the years since, through both Republican and Democratic administrations.
It’s pretty clear what will end up happening as a result of this tweaking to YouTube’s recommended videos AI.