(Dado Ruvic/File Photo/Reuters) The illiberal notion that words are ‘unsafe’ is being normalized.
Last week, John Oliver ran a puerile critique of Israel on his HBO program Last Week Tonight. Though I’ve never subjected myself to his show, I am aware of the segment because Naor Meningher and Eytan Weinstein, the guys who run a small YouTube channel called Nice Jewish Boys, posted a video debunking the comedian’s claims through a video fisking. After getting 60,000 hits, however, the duo was informed by YouTube that the clip was being blocked for violating the company’s community standards relating to “hate speech.”
Meningher and Weinstein responded, asking the company for an explanation. Two minutes after sending their email — the video they produced, incidentally, was 16 minutes and 15 seconds long — the social-media giant responded: “We have reviewed your content carefully, and have confirmed that it violates our hate speech policies. We know that is probably disappointing news, but it’s our job to ensure YouTube is a safe place for all.”
Only after the Israeli newspaper Haaretz — somewhat surprisingly, considering its ideological bent — approached YouTube with the story was the video unblocked. The company claimed it made a mistake.
Needless to say, YouTube doesn’t “carefully” review content. I uncovered all kinds of nasty anti-Semitic videos in mere seconds. I mean, you can watch Goebbels addressing a Nazi rally from 1935 or Hamas leaders offering very similar rhetoric to their adherents in 2021. And so it should be. An open Internet is superior to one that tasks hypersensitive fact-checkers and algorithms to lord over ideas and images. Permitting conspiracy theories to be heard is far preferable to denying users the ability to challenge the calcified media-approved narratives.
Of course, enforcement of “hate speech” bans and “fact-checks” are arbitrary, and their standards of truth are constantly evolving. In today’s environment, two smart people who take time to build a small audience by debunking the mythologies of a high-profile comedian can be shut down without cause — probably over a single complaint — while a man who publicly
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