The tightening of rules by YouTube has had concrete consequences for a Dutch celebrity: rapper Lange Frans. The video platform has removed its channel. It contained videos discussing conspiracy theories, but there were also music videos.
YouTube does not want to say for which statements the rapper’s account has been deleted, but points on a blog from last week announcing tighter rules against what it calls “harmful conspiracy theories.” YouTube calls in addition, “counteracting videos with misinformation and dangerous conspiracy theories” is a challenge.
“I think it’s a shame and I don’t think it’s fair that all my 59 videos have been removed”, the rapper told the NOS. “There are eleven podcasts, the rest are music videos from my oeuvre. Censorship is becoming very real these days. Unfortunately if you say something different, you will apparently be removed.”
The removal comes a few days after a broadcast of Arjen Lubach’s program about how conspiracy theories are spread by social media algorithms. Lange Frans had a leading role in that program, because he discusses conspiracy theories in a podcast. But YouTube says that the broadcast did not influence the decision to remove Lange Frans’ channel.
Stefan Kulk, associate professor of technology and law at Utrecht University, sees the action as part of a pattern. “You can see that tech platforms have become more active in recent months and are removing accounts, this is also because of what is going on about the corona virus and the US presidential election.” They do more than a few years ago, Kulk notes.
I think it’s overselling, deleting an entire channel.
At the same time, he is critical of YouTube’s choice in this case. “I think it goes too far, removing an entire channel. Certainly from the point of view of freedom of expression, you are silencing someone with this.”
Kulk would like to point out that you agree to the terms and conditions if you create an account with YouTube or another platform.
The platforms have been pressured in recent years to do more against unwanted communications. So they have complied with this, but they also do so in their own way, with their own rules, which often apply worldwide.
In this video, Nieuwsuur further explains why Facebook and YouTube have started removing certain conspiracy theories from the platforms:
Rejo Zenger of civil rights organization Bits of Freedom is also critical. “Google only tackles the piece of information, but does nothing against the dissemination. If you really want to solve it, you have to take a deeper approach and look at the revenue model.”
Zenger agrees with Lubach, who stated that people end up in a kind of “trap”, “the algorithm that serves you certain content. And that tries to keep you there for as long as possible and makes the content more radical. the more YouTube earns from a viewer.
Dominance tech companies
In addition, Zenger advocates a more diverse range of platforms. “The impact of conspiracy theories is amplified by the dominance of a few tech companies. Measures are needed to diversify that offer, we cannot expect that from these tech companies.”