Social media is an incredibly powerful tool of the modern age. People on one side of the planet can talk to people on the other side of the planet almost instantly, and voice their opinions about events happening thousands of miles away.
Celebrities and politicians can communicate with their followers directly, and some people can even become celebrities in their own right through these social media platforms.
The fact that these platforms are free is incredible (ignoring platforms like Intertops mobile casino which are for entertainment as well as profit to the operator)… but as someone wise once said, if something on the internet is free, that means YOU are the product. These platforms aren’t created from the good of the hearts of the programmers, but as a business with profit in mind, and eventually as a way to push agendas.
The vox-adpocalypse is the perfect example of this, and maybe the catalyst for all this to change.
To understand what I mean by “vox-adpocalypse”, I should explain the status quo of YouTube.
Just over a decade ago, when YouTube was new, YouTube incentivized internet users to come to their platform through the Partnership Program. Users could earn money by uploading content to YouTube, and take a share of the ad revenue that YouTube received from placing ads before, after, or during their videos.
It came to a point that some people could earn a living through this system if they were popular enough. This is the status quo- thousands of people uploading thousands of hours of content to YouTube every day and receiving money for their work.
Come 2015, things started to change. The political situation in the United States was getting more polarized, although at this time it was FaceBook taking most of the heat (FaceBook was accused of allowing Russian bots to influence the American election through its platform, although this was later debunked).
At any rate, more and more controversial content was becoming viral, including content about race, police brutality, and other content that wasn’t considered “family-friendly”. YouTube responded by removing ads from thousands of channels and videos, hurting many of the innocent creators on the platform.
It was not uncommon for political channels, especially right-wing channels, to complain that these “adpocalypses” were adversely affecting them the most, with almost all their videos requiring manual reviews to allow for monetization to return. The most recent of these adpocalypses is what the internet had dubbed the “Vox-Adpocalypse”.
In May of 2019, a reporter for Vox named Carlos Maza contacted YouTube through Twitter and demanded that YouTube demonetize right-wing talk show host Steven Crowder, after Crowder made jokes about Maza, calling him a “Lispy Mexican Queer”.
YouTube immediately demonetized the entirety of Crowder’s channel, as well as thousands of other content creators. When Crowder responded and demanded to know which rule in YouTubes guidelines he violated, YouTube told him that he hadn’t violated any policy.
This isn’t the first time YouTube has pulled this kind of activity either. YouTube has been accused of collecting data, suppressing videos they don’t agree with, and even deleting channels on very flimsy premises.
So… why is this going to affect the future of social media? Who cares if YouTube deletes the channels of random right-wingers?
Well, it’s NOT just random right-wingers. This is affecting everyone on YouTube. History channels, for instance, that teach about World War Two have been deleted for talking about the Nazis. This kind of action (some call it censorship) is inflaming the internet, which used to be a free-speech bastion, and is now creating an environment where we have to solve some very modern problems.
How, if at all, should we limit free speech, and what sort of rights do people have online? Who has the right to speak, and should social media platforms even be allowed to decide who can and can’t use their platforms?
The answer up until now has been that since YouTube, and other social media platforms are run by private companies, they can restrict their content from whomever they like. However, in modern times more people get their news from the internet than cable. The president of the United States is (infamously) on Twitter. Is it right for Twitter then to tell US citizens that they can’t have access to the president’s voice?
While trying to be objective on the issue, I’ll keep my own opinion on the matter to myself. However, I believe that the trend across the world is leaning towards more freedom and anti-censorship. Big-tech is being looked upon more and more unfavorably, and I believe that there will come a point that either the current big-tech companies give in and relent on their users, or they will be swept away by more open platforms more suited to this modern and almost libertarian mindset.
Something is going to give, one way or the other. It’s just a matter of time.