Protection of personal rights? Or politics? The Hypocrisy of YouTube’s Free Speech Platform
March 31, 2018|Posted in: Uncategorized
In the wake of recent mass shootings, in a halfhearted attempt to placate an overly simplistic population’s demands, several companies’ knee-jerk response has been to take an “anti-gun” stance- whatever that means. For Delta, it meant no longer offering a small discount to NRA members. For Dick’s, it meant, no longer selling “assault” rifles. For YouTube, it meant that the online video sharing platform would ban videos that promote or link to websites selling firearms and accessories as well as prohibit videos with instructions on how to assemble firearms.
While YouTube is a privately-owned company and therefore has the right to ban content that it deems harmful (as it has rightfully done with many terrorist propaganda videos), the irregularity with which YouTube imposes censorship is astounding- and show a company putting politics above both profit, free speech, and personal property rights.
How do I know this?
One might argue that I am an indirect victim of one of YouTube’s videos that quite literally showed how to infringe upon the personal and property rights of others.
In the summer of 2016, my Jeep was stolen from in front of my apartment complex. Eventually, the criminal mastermind who stole it was caught (as petty thieves who steal highly-recognizable cars, drive them to drug deals, and park directly in front of undercover cops usually are), but not before he dropped his cell phone in my Jeep as he was apparently fleeing said law enforcement.
Without a passcode on his phone, his messages were open for me to read. In them, he bragged about stealing my Jeep (and complained that I didn’t have any gas in it) and how he did it with a “shave key” (also known as a wipe key). More shockingly, he bragged to his fellow lowlifes that he learned how to make said key on YouTube.
Not believing this, I visited his browser’s history. Sure enough, there were several videos demonstrating in graphic detail how to make a wipe key that could be used to start any 2007-2013 model of Jeep. Already having stepped into the rabbit hole of illegal activities, I ventured even further as suggested videos popped up including a plethora of videos literally titled “How to Steal a Car.”
(Because I don’t want to drive traffic to said videos, I have chosen not to share the links, but they are easily searchable.)
Continuing on, I ventured into territory about the art of removing GPS systems from said stolen cars, how to make Molotov cocktails, how to make pipe bombs, how to make meth, how to break into a house, and my personal favorite, a waterboarding demonstration involving some bros, duct tape, and a weight bench.
According to the FBI, there were an estimated 765,484 thefts of motor vehicles nationwide in 2016. The estimated rate of motor vehicle thefts was 236.9 per 100,000 inhabitants. In 2016, there were an estimated 1,515,096 burglaries at a rate of 105.5 per 100,000 inhabitants. In total, property crimes resulted in losses estimated at $14.3 billion. The total value of reported stolen property (i.e., currency, jewelry, motor vehicles, electronics, firearms) was $12,420,364,454. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the number of firearms deaths in 2016 was 12,979 (4.0 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants).
While homicide by firearm is certainly more serious than a carjacking or robbery, YouTube’s hypocrisy is that despite the banning of instructional gun videos, the platform continues to host numerous videos that demonstrate the “how-to” of illegal activities that have no potential positive value and serve only to infringe upon the property rights of others.
Following the stealing of my Jeep, I wrote to YouTube complaining about the videos. I never blamed YouTube- no one from their company drove to Utah and stole my Jeep, but I did voice my concern the way that any consumer might do towards a private company.
I wasn’t alone either. I had joined together with others who were also victims of car theft and routinely petitioned the online video mogul to remove such harmful content.
Time and time again, YouTube cited their commitment to freedom of speech.
While the vast majority of gun videos are hosted by qualified, certified, and highly-trained adults and targeted at other competent and safe gun owners, the same cannot be said for videos whose sole purpose is to harm innocent property owners.
YouTube’s recent decision to ban instructional firearms videos in the name of “safety,” while neglecting to apply a universal policy to other potentially harmful videos that explicitly demonstrate how to engage in criminal activity is a slap in the face to myself and other victims who made logical, specific requests for the removal of content that was statistically more likely to result in criminal activity than instructional gun videos.
Maybe we should have held a march.
But then again, it would have been difficult getting to one without a car.
Zoe Zorka is an active libertarian and a writer with credits of CNN, Newsweek, The Source, Elite Daily, and more to her name. When she’s not quoting Ayn Rand on the internet, she can be found running, skiing, or playing with a hot glue gun. Love her or hate her on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat at @zoeshrugged.
Also published on Medium.