Thursday, April 6, 2017
Cooking With Osama bin Laden
Imagine you are a YouTube moderator. Your job is to review flagged videos and remove, leave or escalate the videos based on Google's Terms of Service (ToS). The objective is to process as many complaints as possible (seconds on each) and escalate as few as possible. Not as simple as it sounds. Not for Google, not any busy platform.
What if you keep receiving complaints about cooking videos; regular, run of the mill, bread, sponge cake and roasted chicken videos? Strange, yes, but people flag all kinds of stuff. That would be a "does not violate," decision wouldn't it? But what if those videos were on Osama bin Laden's YouTube channel. What if Osama bin Laden's YouTube channel was nothing but cooking videos? Would that change things? Do those videos suddenly become something more - insidious cooking videos? Terrorist roast chicken. What if Bin Laden was simply reposting Julia Child videos? This is perhaps a relatively easy example. Bin Laden was an internationally hunted criminal. He should not have the opportunity to soften his image with the sponge cake and roasted chicken loving people of the world.
Let's talk about David Duke. He is an entirely different problem. Yes, a former neo-Nazi and Grand Dragon of the KKK among other things, but also an elected official of the Louisiana State Legislature and a paid lecturer who has had a number of legitimate campaigns for public office. He is a racist, no question about it. He also has a constituency of sorts. Don't they deserve their political leader to have a voice? Over the years Duke has become a pioneer in the extremist movement with his exploration of new media manipulation, jargon development and Terms of Service evasion. Today his channels and videos are a tactical mix of political commentary, racial ideology and conspiracy theory. All are conflated, positioned as opinion and otherwise made almost impossible for an average moderator to accurately peg as a violation. Indeed, removing such videos could easily be spun by Duke as political censorship - the ultimate internet sacrilege.
But Osma's roast chicken videos, David Duke's skilled ToS manipulations or cute kitten videos hypothetically posted by Hitler are not the issue themselves. All these people have a history of action and speech which clearly defines their agendas, statements and objectives. No claim by Duke of white rights, love of European identity or US government policies for Israeli agendas is anything other code speak for is older statements on Jewish conspiracy and racial inferiority of Africans and Latinos. Osama bin Laden should not have a cooking channel and I don't care how many cute kitten videos Hitler, or anyone claiming to be Hitler, have amassed: their objective is corrosive and destructive.
The vast majority of the internet community has expressed a desire to be protected from those who create an online pattern of maliciously marginalizing, victimizing or actively attempting to disenfranchise targeted groups. We work hard to protect free speech online . We can work as hard to create mechanisms that protect people online too. When people believe the system makes speaking up dangerous, even in defense of their own dignity, they will not speak out.
Delete Cooking with Osama bin Laden. His Twitter, Snapchat, Tumblr, Instagram and Facebook account too.