A while back reports were circulated that tech giants Google and YouTube restricted a number of educational YouTube videos by Prager University.
Prager University (or PragerU) is a non-profit educational organization that posts weekly videos on various topics to promote and educate young people on conservative values and policy.
YouTube’s policy (and that of its parent company, Google), states that they do not engage in censorship of videos, but that the company does look at the “intent” and “focus” of videos when it restricts access to them. The YouTube restriction function is intended to be used by parents to filter unwanted violent and sexual content from their children. Needless to say, none of the many educational videos on the PragerU channel are of this nature. The reason that YouTube says it restricts videos simply does not add up – unless you start asking why PragerU specifically gets the metaphorical door shut in its face.
By watching these informative videos and, noting carefully who the speakers and presenters are, you never get the impression that they deal with sensitive content. The presenters include various Ivy League (and other) academics, former European prime ministers, magazine editors, literature prize winners and a former South African Member of Parliament, Kenneth Meshoe. Why these individuals are deemed not to be suitable for younger viewers makes no sense. The problem, however, is not in who is doing the talking, but rather in what is being said.
A simple comparison shows the bias that is taking place.
Vox.com is another educational YouTube channel which aims to promote and achieve exactly the same things as PragerU does – the only difference being that Vox.com advocates left-leaning ideas, policy and opinions.
At the end of 2015, Vox.com posted a video titled “The rise of ISIS, explained in 6 minutes”. In May 2016 PragerU posted a video titled “What ISIS wants”, which has since been restricted by YouTube – yet Vox.com’s version remains open for all to view. Another example can be seen with an informational explainer video on racism in America by Vox.com (which wasn’t censored) and a similar video by PragerU relating to the same topic (which was). This discrepancy underscores the arbitrary nature of YouTube’s decision and the extent of their power and bias.
This news follows on other reports throughout the year which strongly point towards partisan censorship by many of the world’s tech giants.
Early in 2016, it was reported that Facebook staffers suppressed conservative views. Another example is the Twitter-ban that Milo Yiannopoulos received in July 2016. Despite the fact that the writer does not at all agree with most of the stances or arguments made by Mr. Yiannopoulos, it remains important to remember that Mr. Yiannopoulos gets a Twitter ban, yet ISIS extremists and #BlackLivesMatter members who incite violence, remain overlooked.
This is a worrying trend. News feeds, such as each user’s on Facebook, shape how many people see the world and their country. Algorithms behind those sites determine which news is important enough for you to see. Despite the goal being admirable and geared towards convenience to filter news according to the relevance of what you read, generally speaking, it comes with a caveat and nasty side effect: They control the flow of information, and you wind up in an echo chamber where you only hear ideas you agree with.
Although companies such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Google remain private entities, which should be able to determine on their own what content they show or do not show, and should be free to set their own standards, they should at least be open and transparent about it. When these companies are open about their partisan agendas, then, at least, the public and consumers could make informed decisions about which services they use and wish to associate with. These companies started by opening up information on the widest scale in the history of mankind under the banner of free and open speech. Now, these same guardians of free and open speech threaten it.
SEE ALSO: Why We Need A Rational Standard by The Editor
We constantly ask individuals to be honest about their bias. The same applies to private entities that fulfill such a crucial role in our society.