We live in a corrupted system. The way to tackle corruption is to first acknowledge it exists. Only then is it possible to come up with ways of dealing with it, but don't make the mistake of believing the system can or will uncorrupt itself.

World class “trolling” by YouTube

After years of censorship, and the last 12 months of that censorship being at a level unparalleled in its scope and Authoritarian nature, the CEO of YouTube, Susan Wojcicki, has been awarded the “Free Expression Award” by a group focused on promoting the US First Amendment right to freedom of speech.

If that sounds bizarrely hypocritical to you, that a CEO of a company that has wiped out thousands of hours of content by creators because they dared to wrongthink, wins an award that is intended to recognise the efforts to protect and promote the free expression of others, you’d be correct. The hypocrisy doesn’t end there you’ll be no doubt pleased to hear. Oh no. If that wasn’t bad enough, YouTube actually is the “Signature Sponsor” of the Freedom Awards. Yes, that’s right. An award that YouTube sponsored, that celebrates and promotes free speech was won by the CEO of YouTube.

There is a video of Susan Wojcicki receiving her award from a YouTube creator and presumably advocate for the freedom of expression. Susan gets the opportunity to regale the audience with tales of her family history where she was personally impacted by the lack of freedom of speech, and saw how her Grandfather staying behind in Poland after WW2 when her and other members of her family left to move to America, made it difficult to communicate with him due to the Iron Curtain and censorship. Susan explains…

“I saw how difficult it was to communicate with him, to be able to worry about what you were saying to him and for him to have concerns about what was said or what was even sent to him.”

Yes indeed, that does sound unpleasant. Having to watch every word you say and not trigger the Authorities into removing your ability to speak at all must have been terrible. She goes on to say…

“I’ve just seen the real benefits that freedom of speech has as well as representing all people of all different backgrounds and all different perspectives and that the freedoms we have, we really can’t take for granted. That we really have to make sure that we’re protecting them in every way possible. And I feel, because of my family history, a deep connection to those freedoms. And I’m very thankful for the freedoms that I have.”

It’s at this point in the video we see the award winning champion of free expression, our dear Susan, look a tad uncomfortable and take a hard swallow. Realising what she just said cannot be reconciled in any way with YouTube’s overt Authoritarian censorship policies and actions, an explanation for that incongruity comes next. It’s not like the presenter had pointed out this glaring contradiction of words and actions. The presenter who in all likelihood was dutifully following her script, then helpfully broaches the importance of “responsibility” and how YouTube needs to manage all that “juggling” of people’s right to free speech and the need to protect the “community” from “content that can be harmful”. She asks Susan if she could talk about that. “Sure” replies Susan almost nonchalantly. Almost.

At this point we’re treated to some classic doublethink, where after explaining the absolutely vital role historically that free speech has demonstrated and that “all different perspectives” need to be protected, we’re informed that YouTube needs to “make sure there are limits.” and explains how YouTube’s “machines” removed 90% of the nine million videos purged last quarter. This is a good thing apparently.

During Susan’s evangelising about YouTube’s “responsibility work”, we hear about the four R’s. These are:

  • Remove
  • Raise
  • Reduce
  • Reward

Susan does explain what each of those four R’s are and how they relate to the day to day workings of YouTube. Remove is obvious and is how the nine million videos that violated the ever-changing YouTube community guidelines and policies, were dealt with.

Raise was explained as how they promote “Authoritative sources”, and the “pandemic” was used as an example of them looking to “make sure people get medical information from um, the right sources”. Yes, the “right” sources. There was a noteworthy self-correction from Susan in this part where she says they “raise up information that we um, is valuable for our users”. What was she going to say? Raise up information we think is valuable, possibly? Of course we will never know but the self-censorship is interesting at that specific point, changing the “we” to “is”.

Then we get to Reduce. This is, according to Susan…

“There’s a lot of content that technically meets the spirit of what we’re trying to do, but it is, it’s borderline. And so for that content, we’ll just reduce, meaning we’re not going to recommend it to our users. It’s still on the platform, but it’s content that is not necessarily recommended by our platform.”

By the phrase “technically meets the spirit of what we’re trying to do” she means it didn’t break any rules. Her explanation of the word “reduce” in this context to mean “not necessarily recommended” seems rather lacking. Most people would understand that to reduce something is to proactively take action to do so, and not just do nothing. Susan’s explanation does not seem consistent with the definition of the word “reduce”, or the demonstrable shadow-banning, automated unsubscribing and notifications that simply don’t work for certain creators and their viewers. But then I presume we’re not meant to know about the behind-the-scenes shenanigans Google and YouTube get up to, so this wishy-washy notion of just a lack of promotion is apparently what Susan means by the word reduce.

Reward is all about advertising dollars, and making sure that creators don’t get advertising pulled because an advertiser doesn’t like some content. In Susan’s world it is important to delete entire channels where people have spent years creating their business and building it up, decimating their income and demonetising wrongthink channels to protect them from advertisers pulling their spend that could badly affect content creators.

Naturally the presenter allows these blatant contradictions and off-the-charts hypocrisy slide by without comment, mostly because it wasn’t in the script to challenge any of it, and also because YouTube is funding these awards and one usually doesn’t bite the hand that feeds.

This is world class trolling by YouTube. It’s like Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize and spending 8 years presiding over non-stop wars and drone strikes that killed thousands and thousands of innocent people. The sheer arrogance of it, and doing so knowing people can see it for what it is, is pure trolling.