Culture

Google/YouTube vs. Conservative Speech

(Dreamstime image: Ocusfocus)
Will Google and YouTube do to the Internet what the Left has done to our universities?

Last week, the Wall Street Journal wrote the following editorial about YouTube restricting access to 16 videos — down from 21 — created and posted online by my non-profit educational organization, Prager University: “YouTube thinks Dennis Prager’s videos may be dangerous.”

Tech giants like Google and Facebook always deny that their platforms favor some viewpoints over others, but then they don’t do much to avoid looking censorious. . . . 

Dennis Prager’s “PragerU” puts out free short videos on subjects “important to understanding American values” — ranging from the high cost of higher education to the motivations of Islamic State. The channel has more than 130 million views. . . . As you might guess, the mini-seminars do not include violence or sexual content.

But more than 15 videos are “restricted” on YouTube. . . . This means the clips don’t show up for those who have turned on filtering — say, a parent shielding their children from explicit videos. A YouTube spokesperson told us that the setting is optional and “based on algorithms that look at a number of factors, including community flagging on videos.” . . . 

PragerU started a petition calling for YouTube to remove the restriction, and more than 66,000 people have signed.

“YouTube is free to set its own standards,” the editorial concluded, “but the company is undercutting its claim to be a platform for ‘free expression.’”

It is a good sign that Google/YouTube’s censorship of respectful, utterly non-violent and non-sexual videos made it to the Wall Street Journal editorial page. It is very bad sign that it had to.

And it is a very bad sign that it made the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal, but not the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, or any other mainstream newspaper that still purports to support the classic liberal value of free speech.

To understand what Google/YouTube has done, it is necessary to briefly describe what it has restricted access to.

Every week, PragerU (the generally used name for Prager University) posts at least one five-minute video presentation online. These presentations are on just about every subject and are given by important thinkers — some very well-known, some not. The list includes dozens of professors at, among other universities, MIT, Notre Dame, Princeton, Dayton, Boston College, Stanford, UCLA, Harvard, and West Point; a black member of the South African Parliament; comedians Adam Carolla and Yakov Smirnoff; two former prime ministers (Spain and Denmark); three Pulitzer Prize winners (George Will, Bret Stephens, and Judith Miller); Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs; Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Arthur Brooks, Jonah Goldberg, Alan Dershowitz, Nicholas Eberstadt, Larry Elder, Steve Forbes, Walter Williams, Christina Hoff Sommers, George Gilder, Victor Davis Hanson; Bjørn Lomborg, Heather Mac Donald, Eric Metaxas, Amity Shlaes, and the commander of British troops in Afghanistan, among many others. I also present some videos.

Any responsible person, left or right, would have to acknowledge that this is a profoundly respectable, non-bomb-throwing list of presenters — hardly conducive to censorship.

What videos did YouTube place restrictions on?

‐ On Race (2):

“Are the Police Racist?”

“Don’t Judge Blacks Differently”

‐ On Islam (6):

“What ISIS Wants”

“Why Don’t Feminists Fight for Muslim Women?”

“Islamic Terror: What Muslim Americans Can Do”

“Pakistan: Can Sharia and Freedom Coexist?”

“Radical Islam: The Most Dangerous Ideology”

“Why Do People Become Islamic Extremists?”

‐ On abortion (2 — the only two offered):

“Who’s More Pro-Choice: Europe or America?”

“The Most Important Question about Abortion”

‐ On Israel (2):

“Israel: The World’s Most Moral Army”

“Israel’s Legal Founding” (Alan Dershowitz’s video was reinstated after much publicity)

‐ On America (3):

“Why Did America Fight the Korean War?”

“Did Bush Lie about Iraq?”

“What is the University Diversity Scam?”

‐ On politics (1):

“Who NOT to Vote For”

‐ On men and women (1):

“He Wants You” (a video I present about men and women)

Obviously, then, the explanation is not algorithms’​ that catch violence and sex.

Think of these topics and consider the list of presenters. Do you see any violent or sexual content? Do you see anything you wouldn’t want your minor child to view? The only possible “yes” might be to the video titled “He Wants You.” Though void of any explicit content, it deals with the subject of men looking at other women yet still most wanting their own wives. It has almost 4 million views and has helped a lot of couples.

Obviously, then, the explanation is not algorithms that catch violence and sex. Rather, Google/YouTube doesn’t want effective (each video has at least 1 million views) conservative videos. Does that mean that it has left-wing censors looking for every widely viewed conservative video? They don’t have to. Left-wing viewers simply “flag” our and others’ videos as inappropriate, and YouTube does the rest.

I have never devoted a column to PragerU. I have done so here because if YouTube gets away with censoring as big a website as PragerU — after a major editorial in the Wall Street Journal and coverage in the New York Post, Boston Globe, Fortune, National Review, and many other places, and a petition signed by over 70,000 people (the petition is at prageru.com) — what will happen to other conservative institutions?

For the probable answer, see your local university.

The question, then, is this: Will Google and YouTube do to the Internet what the Left has done to the university?

— Dennis Prager is a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host and columnist. His latest book, The Ten Commandments: Still the Best Moral Code, was published by Regnery. He is the founder of Prager University and may be contacted at dennisprager.com. © 2016 Creators.com

Editor’s Note: This article has been emended since its original publication.

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