As Internet companies like YouTube and Facebook struggle with the deluge of far-right extremism, racial bigotry, and conspiracy theories that have filled their platforms, it’s becoming increasingly clear that there’s one very simple and yet insurmountable reason they haven’t been able to get it under control: their revenue streams are built around attracting such content.
YouTube executives, as an incisive piece by Mark Bergen at Bloomberg News laid bare this week, have been lackadaisical about the problem over the years that it has accumulated. "Scores of people inside YouTube and Google, its owner, raised concerns about the mass of false, incendiary and toxic content that the world’s largest video site surfaced and spread,” Bergen reported. “Each time they got the same basic response: Don’t rock the boat."
The problem is similar at Facebook, except that there appears to be an obtuse corporate cultural issue making matters worse. After it announced last week that it planned to ban all white-nationalist and white-supremacist content, a simple test of Facebook’s system this week by a Huffington Post reporter revealed it all to be an utter sham.
Reporter Andy Campbell showed a Facebook spokesperson a video and other content by Canadian white nationalist Faith Goldy, and was informed that it didn’t violate the new Facebook standards—even though it was an outrageously straightforward piece of white-nationalist propaganda, rife with racial bigotry and anti-Semitism.
The video, titled “Race Against Time,” is a classic racist screed in which Goldy rails for five minutes “against people of color and Jews―especially those immigrating to predominantly white countries―who she says are ‘replacing’ white populations in Europe, the United States and Canada.”
As Campbell notes, such complaints about “replacement” are part of a broader white-nationalist propaganda campaign against multiculturalism, which they identify as a form of “white genocide.” Marchers at Charlottesville chanted “You will not replace us!,” and the Christchurch terrorist penned a hateful screed he titled “The Great Replacement.”
Getting these platforms to clamp down on speech that helps fuel racial violence—notably including conspiracy-theorist content that scapegoats targeted minorities is made more difficult both by the traffic-boosting incentives in place to permit it to continue, as well as by the ease with which targeted offenders can escape their wrath and continue to post content.
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