Free Speech, Top Stories

YouTube Censored My Interview With Posie Parker

One of the crucial debates in the modern online space in recent years has been about the limits of permitted speech. While the First Amendment protects the rights of Americans to speak their mind, those of us living in Europe and much of the rest of the world are increasingly subjected to restrictions on what we are and aren’t allowed to say.

In 2016, the British police detained and questioned 3,300 people for saying the “wrong” thing on social media. A recent example of this style of policing is the ex-cop who was told by the police that he needed to “check his thinking” after he retweeted an offensive limerick. He has brought a case against the police and has launched a crowdfunder to pay his costs.

Traditionally, “hate speech” has been understood to mean words aimed at stirring hatred and violence towards members of various protected groups. But today hate speech means whatever tech giants want it to mean.

Earlier this year, Francis Foster and I interviewed transgender TV presenter India Willoughby about life as a trans woman for our YouTube show, TRIGGERnometry. As with all our interviews, the idea was for two comedians to speak to someone on one side of a contentious debate in a calm, reasonable way and inject a bit of levity and humour into the conversation. We found the discussion interesting and productive.

In keeping with the spirit of our show, last week we invited someone from the other side of the debate, Posie Parker, a gender-critical ex-feminist, to give us her perspective. The discussion was equally productive even though her take on some issues seemed a bit intransigent to us. We pushed back on a number of her arguments. The discussion was civil, entertaining, funny and informative.

Within hours of being released, the video was watched by over 35,000 people, many of whom actually expressed frustration with us as interviewers for challenging Posie too much!

However, 24 hours later we received a notification informing us that the video had been deleted by YouTube because it constituted “hate speech that incites hatred or violence.” This could not be further from the truth. Indeed, India Willoughby, our transgender guest, who described Posie as “vile,” immediately tweeted a message of support and said the video should not have been taken down.

In the ensuing storm of complaints from our fans and neutral observers, YouTube appear to have caved to social media pressure and reinstated the video. Again, no explanation was given for the decision; indeed we only found out the video was back on YouTube when our fans contacted us to tell us. For all we know, if there is a counter barrage of complaints, the video could be taken down again tomorrow with no explanation.

The reality revealed by this incident is that the big tech giants answer to no one. While there is a formal right of appeal, the tech giants of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube act as judge, jury and executioner. In many cases, the decision is made by automated algorithms and then superficially reviewed by faceless apparatchiks. We weren’t told which aspects of our video were “hate speech” and, beyond throwing around this catch-all term, no justification was offered for taking it down. In essence, YouTube is accountable to no one.

The libertarian argument that YouTube is owned by a private company which is entitled to police content as it wishes is no longer sustainable. We live in a digital world in which a handful of big tech companies have seized control of the public square. As I have argued before, we need a First Amendment for the Internet.

To be clear, the issue here is not whether you agree with Posie Parker that “trans women are men.” The question is whether a 20-year-old in California gets to arbitrarily decide what people on the other side of the world are allowed to listen to.

Our interview with Posie Parker contained no hate speech or incitement. Don’t believe me? Watch it here for yourself.

But the truth no longer matters. The only thing that matters is what our Silicon Valley overlords decide. The design of YouTube’s hate speech policy is clear. A channel like ours, which has had a video deleted for “inappropriate content,” receives a warning. Any further violations lead to strikes. Collect three and your channel is permanently deleted.

The subliminal message behind this is obvious: “Censor yourself so we don’t have to.”

The danger of driving rational debate out of the digital public square is that people with non-conforming views end up communicating only with each other. If the tech giants of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube squeeze out heterodox content, it ends up on sites like Gab, 4chan and 8chan, which radicalise users. These spaces lack the counterarguments and balance necessary to expose lies, fake news and conspiracies. Instead, they drive users further and further down dangerous rabbit holes.

Open, honest communication about difficult subjects is the only way to resolve the major issues facing our societies today. Big tech companies must embrace this reality or face the consequences.

 

Konstantin Kisin is a Russian-British comedian based in the U.K. and the co-host of TRIGGERnometry. You can follow him on Twitter @KonstantinKisin.

 

Comments

  1. If the tech giants of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube squeeze out heterodox content, it ends up on sites like Gab, 4chan and 8chan, which radicalise users. These spaces lack the counterarguments and balance necessary to expose lies, fake news and conspiracies. Instead, they drive users further and further down dangerous rabbit holes.

    This is a very good point. I remember the Reddit revolt of a few years ago when CEO Ellen Pao banned ‘FatPeopleHate’. Everyone got all excited about Voat which has since become a cesspool of conspiracy theorists and extremists of every ilk.

    We need to start thinking of these platforms in the same terms as the radio in the old days. Since they have infiltrated our lives and made themselves indispensable to the smooth functioning of society (while making a $ or two at it) we probably have a good argument for treating them like a public and necessary service to some degree.

  2. The danger of driving rational debate out of the digital public square is that people with non-conforming views end up communicating only with each other. If the tech giants of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube squeeze out heterodox content, it ends up on sites like Gab, 4chan and 8chan, which radicalise users. These spaces lack the counterarguments and balance necessary to expose lies, fake news and conspiracies. Instead, they drive users further and further down dangerous rabbit holes.

    Sounds like Stephen Pinker’s rant - the one that got him labeled “alt-Right” and got a brick thrown through his window. He said that the danger in making things that are true “unsayable” is that those who know them to be true end up radicalized.

    My criticism of Pinker then is my criticism of this article now: They ignore the more significant and obvious danger. If you make a truth unspeakable, then many people will believe that it’s not true! If you purge heterodox speech from the public square, it’s not the back channels that it’s banished to that will spawn radicalism. It’s the public square that is spawning radicalism!

    A majority of millennials prefer socialism to the free market, and these “academics” think that the biggest problem with this is that their censorship will create back-alley free-market extremists?

    To borrow a recent analogy from myself, that’s like saying that the worst thing about the Holocaust was that the German people couldn’t find good accountants.

  3. The libertarian argument that YouTube is owned by a private company which is entitled to police content as it wishes is no longer sustainable. We live in a digital world in which a handful of big tech companies have seized control of the public square. As I have argued before, we need a First Amendment for the Internet.

    Quillette video?

    The Internet has no limit or place, so “public square” is as true as when people claim that big malls are the new public square. They aren’t public at all, nor is there any reason for them to be. They are all private spaces. Once there’s a profit motive, especially one based on advertising, do not expect anything but pablum to be made available. Financial risk is part of capitalism, but rarely does it include social risk. Edgy, intellectual, contrarian, free-thinking…these are not terms from commercial spaces of consumers, fads and conformity. It’s why all malls across the country seem to all be the same now. It’s why I can read 4 newspapers (NYTimes, WAPO, LA Times, Seattle Times) and somehow still seem mostly the same stories and perspectives.

    But for the cost of a server and bandwidth, you can post any video and content you want. Expecting big corporations to help you promote, distribute and perhaps even make money on content that doesn’t serve their needs to serve their primary advertisers and major users is unworkable.

  4. “Our interview with Posie Parker contained no hate speech or incitement.”

    Sorry, but any speech that includes thoughts or arguments some zealots somewhere with a Twitter account don’t like is, by their definition, “hate speech”. That someone may be exposed to such “hate speech” makes it too dangerous to publish. It does not matter that no one is forced to watch your interview; simply knowing that someone out there may themselves watch it is enough to trigger some folks.

    After all, you are supposed to punch Nazis. Anyone saying or doing anything these SJW zealots don’t like - or failing to say or do what these zealots demand - is a Nazi.

    As far as You Tube being private company, IMO they can decide to control what speech to allow or not on their platform. If they are biased, then so be it. the MSM is extremely biased and obviously controls what they broadcast. But if You Tube is going to decide to control what gets published, then they can’t hide behind “hey, were just a neutral platform not responsible for the content”.

  5. The functional definition of “Hate Speech” appears to simply be speech which someone hates. The more that somone is full of hate, the more things they label hate speech. Ironically these haters then begin labeling things hate speech without even bothering to listen, simply because they hate the speaker. Voilà, a priori hate speech.

  6. It does seem to me that it is a problem that the small handful of tech companies through which the homogeneous leftist narrative of the MSM can be circumvented are censoring material that runs contrary to that leftist narrative. Social media was supposed to be the way the right could get their perspective out there. As much as my instinct says to leave private companies alone, the stifling of inconvenient facts and politically incorrect opinions poses a serious threat to society.

    Smarter people than I have proposed solutions on Quillette before, but I recall two options: 1) make these companies decide if they are a platform or a publisher, and regulate and prosecute them accordingly, 2) enforce anti-trust laws. Anyone familiar with the actual laws involved have any comment on this?

  7. There is much here that I disagree with, but I will agree that tolerance is better than hate.

    But I think that are reasonable limits to tolerance. I won’t bother setting up strawmen for me to knock down that illustrate this. I think we likely agree on cases of clearly violent acts or the advocating of violence is wrong. And I think that we can also agree that tolerance of ideas is good.

    There are two problems here. One is your definition of a right. If it were merely a matter of being allowed to exist, I don’t think anyone would care. I don’t think YouTube would be censoring videos and I don’t think Posie Parker would be confronting Sarah McBride. As an aside, yes, I deliberately chose the word confronting, just as the article deliberately chose the word harassing. And “Did not respond” can also be reasonably framed as “had no answers.” It’s funny how words work and how journalists carve out narratives,

    The second problem is the nature of law. At its essence it is the implied threat of force. Shall I set up strawmen here too or can we agree that passing laws that give me “rights” at the expense and harm of others that are then enforced at a point of gun is not tolerable?

    So, while I agree that trans activists have the right to exist and their ideas should be tolerated, so too do I believe that it is reasonable to challenge them with other ideas. And as long as they continue to push for the intolerable, I will not be tolerant. Which is why I have long said the activists are actually hurting the community they claim to represent. I am much less likely to want to hire, work with or befriend a trans person now than I was 10 years ago.

  8. This is a thoughtful article that raises important points. I’m probably most by nature a libertarian but with caveats. In this case, there are clear caveats. But I still can’t decide what the solution should be.

    The social media giants defacto control a very influential means of communication. Yes, if one doesn’t want to self-censor, one can not participate --but, first, that’s not possible for people who need to market their ideas or products. As a writer - to use one example - I am urged to have a vibrant social media account. Given the same book, a publisher will be far more likely to publish one whose author has 100,000 followers on Twitter, versus a digital nonentity. There are a great many artists, entrepreneurs, etc. who use the social media platforms as a means of marketing. The tech giants lured us all in under false pretenses. For a while they marketed themselves as a platform. People duly built their products under that implicit promise. Then after everyone had built up their base, they pulled the rug out and retroactively declared themselves not neutral.

    I personally know many artists who are terrified to post the Wrong Thing on social media - lest their entire career is destroyed by the crazies - and thus either post inane things, or else toe the Leftist line and post Woke things. Posting Woke slogans is a great boon to your career. I know several people whose careers are booming not because of their talent but because they’re ‘activists’ - meaning they type a few characters while sipping lattes in their comfy homes.

    Then there are people who use social media platforms as the product itself; these are people who have built their entire business out of a YouTube channel again under the false premise that it was a neutral platform.

    And finally there are many people all over the world who use the platforms as a way to exchange ideas and open their eyes. The effect is already felt–the world feels smaller (like here, where we chat from many different countries), and we learn much, much more about other cultures, ideas, governance. This is hands down the most powerful use of the medium and the most threatening to tyrannical powers. It is this reason I think that makes it imperative for social media to be a free exchange and the reason gov’ts as in the UK are so quickly becoming so Orwellian. (Who has to be turning in his grave.)

    I might argue, as many do, 'You don’t have to use it if you don’t like it, and if enough people decline, the social media giants will adjust accordingly or another giant will come into the vacuum." But I’m increasingly worried about this argument as it seems to me the giants are effectively monopolies operating in lockstep with each other, just like MSM, and are too powerful now for competition. (For a while, the “Intellectual Dark Web” people were saying they were coming up with a huge alternative. But I have yet to see it.). Twitter, Reddit, FB, You Tube–they all have a clear ideological lens and unfortunately that lens is viciously intolerant of opposing or even mildly contrary expressions against their cherished dogma. Off with their heads! Added to that the natural extremely fiscally conservative tendencies of most large corporations, and you have a toxic mix of corporations that both internally have a semi-deranged ideological bent, and will respond in two seconds to a couple of deranged squawks from Random Twitter Users.

    And social media has become a very very powerful means of communication, on par with the printing press. To avoid it or to be rendered unable to use it is not at all like being forbidden to go to the mall or even not at all like being forbidden to walk in a town square. It is instead like having your tongue ripped out. You can still communicate, but not nearly as loudly as everyone else. Imagine the phone companies permanently forbidding you access to the phone because you said in a conversation that a trans woman is a man. Or even for no reason you can tell. Then imagine people saying, “Well you can always use the mail!”

    But what is the solution? As far as I see it is: a) wait for the market to correct itself, through other competitive platforms. But is that possible by now? b) treat the companies as monopolies and regulate. But that is a problem too in that then the gov’t becomes even more involved in the mix than they already are. c) treat them as publishing companies and hold them responsible for everything they publish, which would I think effectively destroy them financially as there are a lot of loony slanderous posts out there. Or at least would create a giant boon for the courts for years.

    Are there any other solutions? I don’t like any of these. I guess the most preferable for me is for a vigorous new tech giant Prince to swoop to our rescue with the kiss of neutrality. But the danger is then we all talk in our own bubbles. Which I guess many are already doing. It’s a mess.

  9. This person is not going to be “protected against sexual violence” in a women’s restroom. And allowing men into women’s restrooms increases the potential for sexual violence.

    Frankly, it is a violation to force me to share a dressing room with a dick. I don’t care what he thinks he is. He still has a dick.

    Let’s just put all the “trans” people in the same restrooms. Let’s create their own special restroom. And let’s see if the potential for sexual violence decreases in that space.

    I’d bet you a million dollars it merely increases it.

    Without reading the article you posted, I can tell you why the potential for sexual violence might be higher among LGBT:

    GRINDER.

  10. If Latin people were going around trying to pass laws that forced me to lie about reality and make criticism of them a crime, I would feel no different. I would absolutely shun them whenever and wherever possible. I would try to judge based on the individual, but simply knowing there was a risk they COULD weaponize their identity is enough that I doubt I would make any exceptions.

    My point that this was harmful to others was not addressed. My point that this is harmful to the larger trans community was not addressed. That is the issue at hand, and very little else. As seems to be typical of those that support this, your arguments revolve around compassion and stray little beyond. That is only the beginning of the debate, it is not the end. Sorry, nothing you have said has dented my conviction.

  11. Why stop there? Shouldn’t we protect everyone? Why not political orientation (I believe this is true in Washington DC). Why not left handedness? Why not based on height? Why not based on weight? Why not based on attractiveness? Why not based on mental illness? Why not based on all human characteristics? Is it because there is no discrimination based on any that I just listed? I doubt that you believe that. We can cure all of it with laws I’m sure. Let’s make it illegal to prefer to have a partner that is slim and attractive rather than one that is fat and ugly because that is oppressive (and in some sense, it is) .

    I am not arguing about what is, I am arguing about what should be. It is obvious to me that the positive impact of such laws has long since passed. Football players now justify their bad behavior with claims that they were called a bad word. Actor seek attention by claiming they were assaulted by racists. I’m sure there are many others that are real, but the fact that a successful hoax is now seen as an easy way to achieve your goals is indicative of a big problem.

    In a pluralistic society, which I value, you have to protect everyone equally. Some pigs cannot be more equal than others. If they are, it will apart. As it is. Asymmetrical application of the laws does not seem to be a bug in the system, it now seems a feature. It is part of the fuel that is powering us towards tribalism and discord.

    The left never knows where to stop. And amazingly, for most, it is always based on good intentions. We will destroy the lives of children because we care about children. We will let record numbers of people live on the streets homeless and drug addicted because we care about people. We will let the young men of the inner cities kill each other in the name of equality. No thanks.

  12. I am back with a few monents. I find it interesting that you categorize disagreement with the trans community as “hate speech.” You slipped in in there with the deftness of an assassin or possibly a journalist. In fact, you have just contributed to cancel culture with such demagoguery. Please define the hate speech that you don’t oppose.

    In fact, the latest generation polls as having less tolerance towards LGBQT as I also feel less. I have no problem with let and let live. This is not what this is. You are apparently totally oblivious to human nature and the damage you cause to society and the groups you claim to “support.” And I point out again, you have not addressed the cost of the social engineering that is being attempted. Is it because you wish not to address it or because you believe there is none?

  13. Blockquote
    And isn’t it “hate” to declare that there is no difference between the sexes, while simultaneously claiming to own the brain of the other?

    That’s what I love about progressives. When it comes to trans people, they will shower you with studies and researches showing differences between male and female brain and showing proof a female brain can develop in male body and vice versa.

    However, when the issue is about women in STEM or other highly paid fields - they change their tune and suddenly there is no difference between men and women. Suddenly every girl has the same interests as every boy and it is only because of sexism that there are fields where men dominates (of course fields dominated by women are absolutely ok and there is no need for any changes or quotas)

  14. To anyone that wonders, I posted this accidentally as a response to myself and deleted the original rather than duplicate it.

    Sorry, I am going to have to respond piecemeal as that is all I seem to find the time for. Why on earth would I want to rent an apartment to a transgendered person in the world you envision? I would be totally unable to evict them regardless of their behavior. They would claim I was transphobic and raise a human rights case against me. Or could. What would induce me to do that? And why kind of idiot would I be to admit that was why I was not renting them the apartment such that they had a legal case.

    The difference between today and the heyday of human rights is that identities were not weaponized. Did you know that since the “believe all women” narrative, men report being more reluctant to mentor women? They are more likely not to have business dinners with them. They don’t want to have closed door meeting with them. Their opportunities for advancement have been reduced. Not because of any hatred of women, but because men feel the need to protect themselves.

    Of all the differences in race, ethnicity, language etc, etc. there is only one that I think is significant and that is the differences between the sexes. It is unlike the others.There are obvious physical differences and different roles in reproduction that have resulted in generalized psychological differences. These differences have developed through hundreds of millions of years of evolution. I think the erasure of women as a class and their ability to have their own safe spaces deserves more than a “well, what the hell, let’s see what happens.” My favorite joke is about a guy who falls off the top of a 100 story building. The people on every floor hear him saying “So far, so good” as he plummets to the ground.

    The glue that holds society together is weakening. We have way more smart phone and far less cohesion and purpose. Birth rates are in free fall. Women as a group report being less happy now than decades ago. Men stay in their parents basement and play video games. The young people in society are being taught to hate their culture, their history and themselves. Suicide rates are up. California is now a feudal state with people relieving themselves in the street.

    Politics is now a blood sport. Civility is disappearing. Tribalism is on the rise. The media no longer reports facts, only narratives. The working class is under attack from global trade, immigration and automation. Men and women are encouraged to hate either other. Being the best victim is the pathway to success. Merit as the means of advancement is under siege. The national debt of Western nations is sky rocketing. Separatist movements are now rising in Hong Kong, Spain and Canada. The true far right is rising in European countries thanks to mass immigration of peoples of a different culture who are not assimilating.

    Specific to the trans issue, an intact male rapist was sent to women’s prisons in Britain. Strangely, they carried on raping women. In sports, women are losing scholarships and opportunities for success. Bruce Jenner was named “Women of the Year.” Women are now being referred to as “people with front holes” or “people with a uterus.” Children are being treated like rock stars when they mutilate their bodies and take puberty blockers. Science is seen as oppressive. Hell, everything is seen as oppressive.

    In what world are the worries being exaggerated? Not mine. I understand that it is easy to cherry pick problems. Problems have always existed. But these problems aren’t insignificant or rare and they are getting worse, not better. We can debate all day as to the causes, but I have no doubt that the “men can be women” mind set is part of the same disease.

  15. You apparently have signed on to the trans activist movement because… .the world hasn’t ended so far? …because women are exactly the same as men and all the psychological data is bogus and women are promiscuous? …for whatever reason. I will oppose it with all my might and would prefer to go to jail than submit to it.

    I will give you the last word, but I wish to end with some final thoughts. If you agree that context is important than I suggest you add a subject to your term “hate speech.” There is no such thing and I find the term offensive. There are people that use speech as a tool of hate. That’s it. Just as they use knives, cars and guns. It is the difference between guns kill people and people kill people with guns. The prescription and proscriptions for those two statements is entirely different.

    Women are promiscuous. Sure, So what? It doesn’t change the fact that there are generalized differences along many psychological dimensions.

    Not as worried. The trans community are rated as the “better” victims.

    I am happy you are hopeful. But you also think examining things in context is a straw man argument. As a result, I don’t see anything productive coming out this conversation. One of two things is true. You are the person that falls off the top of the 100 floor building and hopes for the best or I am afraid the sky is falling. Probably the truth lies between, but I will let history and other people decide on the opinions so far expressed.

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