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YouTube’s War on InfoWars: Forced Speech And The First Amendment

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YouTube is reportedly going to take down the channel for the controversial website InfoWars on Monday, reports right-wing investigator and provocateur James O’Keefe.

I won’t delve into (nor link to) the content of InfoWars. Readers can access it (and often do so without warning) by going to The Drudge Report, which lists it twice (once as InfoWars, once as Alex Jones) among its newsfeed channels.

Presumably, this action is taken because of some violations of the YouTube terms, guidelines, etc. YouTube is a private service and as such, has its own rights to set its terms. Let’s simply look at YouTube’s stated policies, which I found with some difficulty.

First, from the Policies and Guidelines webpage:

You might not like everything you see on YouTube. If you think content is inappropriate, use the flagging feature to submit it for review by our YouTube staff. Our staff carefully reviews flagged content 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to determine whether there’s a violation of our Community Guidelines.

And those Guidelines say, in relevant part:

Our products are platforms for free expression. But we don’t support content that promotes or condones violence against individuals or groups based on race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, nationality, veteran status, or sexual orientation/gender identity, or whose primary purpose is inciting hatred on the basis of these core characteristics. This can be a delicate balancing act, but if the primary purpose is to attack a protected group, the content crosses the line. (Emphasis added.)

Now, from a lawyer’s perspective,

Within the Guidelines is YouTube’s Hate Speech policy:

We encourage free speech and try to defend your right to express unpopular points of view, but we don’t permit hate speech.

Hate speech refers to content that promotes violence against or has the primary purpose of inciting hatred against individuals or groups based on certain attributes, such as:

race or ethnic origin
religion
disability
gender
age
veteran status
sexual orientation/gender identity

There is a fine line between what is and what is not considered to be hate speech. For instance, it is generally okay to criticize a nation-state, but if the primary purpose of the content is to incite hatred against a group of people solely based on their ethnicity, or if the content promotes violence based on any of these core attributes, like religion, it violates our policy.

Also, under the heading of “Threats” is the following:

Things like predatory behavior, stalking, threats, harassment, intimidation, invading privacy, revealing other people’s personal information, and inciting others to commit violent acts or to violate the Terms of Use are taken very seriously. Anyone caught doing these things may be permanently banned from YouTube.

Now, taking all of this language, there are some flaws. In short, its because the terms and guidelines are too brief. They fail to give enough warning to users as to what “crosses the line.” That’s because there is too much ambiguity in a lot of single words.

You can criticize this as “overlawyering” and criticize me for being one of those subhuman lawyers. However, almost every subject, verb, adjective and adverb in the terms requires a definition. Look again at just this one sentence. I’ve put in bold what I think is each and every term which has an unclear or ambiguous meaning.

For instance, it is generally okay to criticize a nation-state, but if the primary purpose of the content is to incite hatred against a group of people solely based on their ethnicity, or if the content promotes violence based on any of these core attributes, like religion, it violates our policy.

Each term I’ve highlighted is susceptible to multiple meanings, which in turn exposes YouTube to criticism that it is being arbitrary, unfair or “political” in exercising its own rights.

But here is what you’re missing. YouTube has its own rights of free speech, including the right of free association. Remember the infamous-on-the-Left Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United?

Before the “right wing” cues up the faux outrage machine and further embarrasses conservatives, let’s remember a few general principles.

YouTube is a private company. YouTube is an affiliate of the Google empire, which includes the publicly-traded company known now as Alphabet. But that doesn’t mean the customers, the public, or the government get to tell a private business how to run its business.

The people saying that “YouTube has no business…” or accusing it of “censorship” don’t realize they are arguing for a private business to be controlled by an outside group. Rational people have to think about two questions: First, who would that group be? Second (and more importantly), who decides the first question?

This, my friends, is the road to government oversight and control. Under the rubric of “free speech,” this is the march towards Soviet-style Marxism. Not because YouTube is “censoring” content which is both within its right

So, the critics of YouTube and defenders of (in this case) InfoWars, who want to force YouTube to carry certain content are not defenders of free speech here. They are its attackers. This confusion, and deception are the next steps in paving the road towards authoritarianism and totalitarianism.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Public Citizen

    March 4, 2018 at 4:39 pm

    The question must eventually be dealt with:
    “At what point does an “internet service” that has a virtual monopoly in a popular area become a defacto “Public Utility” that must of public necessity be regulated as a public utility or else broken up under the Anti-Trust Laws?”
    This question must be dealt with, and soon, in a number of areas of the internet.

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Guns and Crime

Nevada to seek death penalty for illegal alien Wilber Ernesto Martinez-Guzman

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Nevada to seek death penalty for illegal alien Wilber Ernesto Martinez-Guzman

Prosecutors in two counties where an illegal immigrant allegedly murdered four people are seeking the death penalty for his crimes. North Nevada was shaken by the string of murders until the alleged killer was apprehended by law enforcement in January.

Wilber Ernesto Martinez-Guzman, 20, was arrested January 19, 2019, by Washoe County Sheriff’s department and charged with multiple offenses while prosecutors and investigators worked on charging him for the four murders. They rarely invoke the death penalty but the severity and heinous nature of the crimes warrant capital punishment, according to prosecutors.

“We reserve the death penalty for the worst of the worst,” Washoe County District Attorney Chris Hicks said last Thursday. “We use it sparingly.”

The illegal immigrant from El Salvador is accused of shooting and killing Gerald David, 81, and his wife, Sharon, 80, in Reno and Connie Koontz, 56, and Sophia Renken, 74, in Gardnerville.

My Take

Just as traffic fines are doubled in construction zones, so too should penalties be increased when illegal immigrants commit crimes. His immigration status was not taken into account, but the crimes themselves were enough for prosecutors to seek the death penalty.

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News

Devin Nunes sued Twitter: Here’s the real can of worms that could open for the social media giant

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Devin Nunes sued Twitter Heres the real can of worms that could open for the social media giant

Congressman Devin Nunes (R-CA) has filed a lawsuit against Twitter, citing multiple offenses including defamation, conspiracy, and negligence. The lawsuit, filed in Virginia, asks for $250 million in compensatory damages and $350,000 in punitive damages.

Currently, Twitter is considered to be a content platform rather than a producer, but Nunes claims the site has overstepped its bounds as merely a host because they’ve taken an active and aggressive interest in filtering and censoring content. They’ve also been aggressive in their banning and “shadowbanning” practices, the latter of which impacted Nunes’s account itself.

This has a very good potential of opening that particular can of worms, as I noted on Twitter:

My Take

There are three acceptable possibilities that can come from this or other actions.

  1. Twitter stops banning, censoring, and filtering content altogether other than content that is illegal or filtered by a user upon request. It’s important to throw that in, not because it needs to said to most people but because many anti-free-speech activists (better known as hate-speech protesters) would perceive the goal of ending censorship as a requested license for no-holds-barred free posting. It’s one thing to ban someone for doxxing or making actual threats. It’s a whole other thing to ban people for being critical of sharia law, for example, or to tell people they should learn how to code.
  2. Twitter keeps their current filters, bans, and censorship in place but they do so across the ideological, political, cultural, and religious spectrum. There are countless instances where double standards are applied based upon an unwillingness to offend the left while actually craving opportunities to offend the right. One need only look at Ayatollah Khamenei’s Twitter account for examples of someone who can threaten lives without worrying about a Twitter ban.
  3. Police the site how they want, but remove the protections against defamation and other lawsuits in an acknowledgement that they’re a content aggregator, not simply a platform.

I’ll admit up front that this site has a vested interest in cleaning up Twitter. Several of our writers have been banned on Twitter for being too aggressively conservative. I know with a certainty that none of their Tweets were as heinous as others’ who are allowed to stay on the site simply because they’re not conservative. But we have no real recourse against the social media giant. As a crowdfunded news outlet that relies on our readers for donations, we would never waste the money getting legal over a handful of Twitter accounts. They’re just not worth it.

But it’s more than just the money. They are a private corporation and I always push back against government interactions with private business. It’s their platform. They can do what they want with it. If they want to be hyper-leftist, that’s their prerogative, just as we will be staunchly conservative. But we’re held to a higher degree of accountability because we’re not a platform the way Twitter is currently classified. It’s this area, the way they’re classified, that we can see fruit coming forth from this lawsuit.

What Nunes is doing isn’t really about the money. It’s about putting Twitter’s anti-conservative and anti-Judeo-Christian practices in the spotlight and establishing a change in the system that holds them accountable. I support the Congressman in this effort.

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Culture and Religion

Houston library had Alberto Garza, a registered child sex offender, read stories to children for Drag Queen Storytime

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Houston library had Alberto Garza a registered child sex offender read stories to children for Drag

Conservatives know the LGBTQ community has their say in most aspects of life in America today. Their political and cultural influence is unquestionable and public organizations jump through hoops to appease the various groups. Many libraries have even embrace “Drag Queen Storytime” as a way to teach tolerance to children by allowing transvestites to read stories to children.

Houston Public Library is one such progressive public organization that has embraced the practice. Unfortunately, they didn’t do anything to protect the children that visit the library by allowing “Tatiana Mala Nina” to read for the children. The problem arose because”Tatiana” is actually Alberto Garza, a 32-year-old child sex offender.

My Take

Houston Public Library has apologized. Is that really enough? Mistakes happen, but there are certain situations and jobs in which extra special care must be taken. Our public libraries, which are often considered to be truly safe places and popular venues for children to learn, should be able to give a reasonable expectation to parents that registered child sex offenders are not given explicit access to children.

This is gross negligence. I may be in the minority on this one, but this is a terminable offense in my books. Someone’s head should roll.

Keep in mind I rarely call for anyone to be fired for a single offense, but this is literally the worst case scenario for a library administrator. When you give someone access to the children that come to the library, they cannot be convicted child sex offenders. That’s sort of a no-brainer.

Nothing will likely happen beyond the apology, but here’s hoping.

So many exceptions are made for “alternative lifestyles” for the sake of tolerance. But when this tolerance allows a convicted child sex offender to have access to small children, the exceptions have gone way to far. This is absolutely unacceptable.

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