Bad reasons to push for new federal laws: Prager v. YouTube

Conservative commentator Dennis Prager has an op-ed in yesterday’s WSJ restating his claims (made in a lawsuit dismissed last year and re-filed this spring in a new suit) that YouTube restricted his “Prager University” videos owing to anti-conservative bias. These claims of unfair treatment have gotten wide circulation, especially since the popular Prager U. series for the most part presents mainstream conservative views in a calm rather than incendiary tone. In his op-ed, Prager speaks favorably about the enactment of new “laws governing big technology companies” to restrain “their hostility to conservative voices.”

This Mike Masnick thread (language) gives another side to the story. YouTube’s optional “restricted mode,” meant to limit kid viewing, isn’t important or much used (only 1.5% of users enable it). The PragerU shows at issue did have some content about topics like rape, murder, and genocide that might disturb younger children. And many other well-known shows see a larger share of their episodes put into restricted mode. Thus 12% of Prager U. videos have been put in restricted mode, compared with 24% of History Channel videos, 28% of Vox videos and 54% of Daily Show videos. Matthew Feeney at Cato, James Pethokoukis at AEI, and Billy Binion at Reason have more.

One irony I see in this is that conservatives up till recently have tended to favor promoting parental-control modes in social media, or even making them the default, and have accepted the inevitability that the automated algorithms that inevitably drive these modes when applied to large bodies of material may sometimes sweep broadly enough to screen out even some responsible, sober, and fact-based discussions of topics to which parents might not want to expose younger teens.

Having now seen these modes in action, they seem to be having second thoughts.

P.S. “Conservatives have also spent decades opposing any attempt to revive the FCC’s old Fairness Doctrine, which required broadcasters to be balanced in their programming on controversial issues. ‘FCC bureaucrats can neither determine what is “fair” nor enforce it,’ the Heritage Foundation said in 1993.” [Margaret Harding McGill and Daniel Lippman, Politico, on reports of new White House executive order]

More: John Samples, Cato (“Dennis Prager, Big-Government Conservative”).

3 Comments

  • If Mr. Prager wants to make sure his videos are published in a forum as easily accessed by adults as youtube, he could follow the example of InRangeTV, a publisher of firearms related videos which had some 144,000 youtube subscribers, but suddenly in early 2018 found its videos banned by youtube.

    InRangeTV simply began posting its videos on PornHub, which did not ban them.

    Mr. Prager might even find that his videos reach a new audience that strongly supports his anti-censorship views.

  • “The PragerU shows at issue did have some content about topics like rape, murder, and genocide that might disturb younger children.”

    The list of restricted videos belies this statement. And you conveniently ignore the demonetization issue.

    I expect better of overlawyered.

  • If you’re not signed in and over 18, restricted mode will automatically be on anyway. If you’re on a school issued Chromebook or laptop, it means you may be able to watch this content. It’s also not like they’re showing graphic images or describing murder in great detail. Any person under 18 that actually watches what is generally bland and churchworthy, will definitely be okay with this channel and it’s content in relation to it’s “graphic” nature.

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