Opinion Column

The Duel

Advertisers control speech on YouTube

By Brent Stafford, The Duel

(ERIC PIERMONT/AFP/Getty Images)

(ERIC PIERMONT/AFP/Getty Images)

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This week's question: Is YouTube justified in restricting extreme right-wing content?

In the mouths of modern radicals, a fascist or Nazi is simply a conservative winning an argument with someone on the left. It’s viscous political labelling designed to shut down speech. This is exactly what is occurring right now on YouTube, the shutting down of conservative or, if you prefer, right-wing speech.

Let’s be precise. The top multi-billion dollar media buying conglomerates — agencies responsible for negotiating and purchasing media on behalf of brand advertisers — are entering the political battle on the side of the left. If you believe left-wing values and corporate capitalism are diametrically opposed, you would be mistaken. Multinationals know no borders and profit quite comfortably within a regulated, anti-competitive union of welfare states.

Agencies have threatened to, or have already temporarily frozen, brand advertiser spending on YouTube to pressure the Google-owned company to censor “questionable” content. The steps taken are under the guise of “brand safety,” yet the targets of the censorship defy this justification.

Read Garth Mullins' column here.

While examples are scarce, Garth is correct in that advertisers are concerned about ads showing up alongside videos containing firearms and swastikas or neo-fascist and pro-ISIS videos. These ads are placed on videos not by choice of the advertiser but through YouTube’s automated programmatic advertising system.

Where Garth deviates from the truth — remember truth is not a left-wing value — is where he states in his argument that “conservatives are alleging censorship” implying that conservatives and right-wingers are defending white supremacist or fascist political ideologies. Charitably, this is obfuscation and a debasement of political vocabulary.

I agree advertisers have every right to insist YouTube take measures to prevent the running of ads alongside pro-ISIS and neo-Nazi videos. Indeed, if videos are truly promoting ISIS, Nazism, fascism or white supremacy, YouTube should go further than restrict the videos. They should be taken down.

Conservatives are concerned because YouTube is going beyond these categories and are restricting videos by many popular and effective communicators, such as Steven Crowder and Paul Joseph Watson, or those from Prager University. It’s apparent that anyone who challenges the left on open borders, Islamic extremism, Black Lives Matter, the war against boys, climate change, identity politics and the social welfare state is becoming unwelcome on YouTube.

These content creators’ videos are still up but, when restricted, they get less views, do not show up in trending feeds and they are pulled out of the monetization program.

It seems multinational advertisers are now in control of speech.

Brent Stafford is a veteran television producer and marketing specialist. His company ShakyEgg.com works in the brand, entertainment and resource space.