A Conversation about YouTube and Facebook Censorship

Earlier today I had a great political conversation with a friend on Facebook messenger and I’d like to share it with my readers. I hope it’s useful in understanding both of the strong conservative arguments on this issue. The quotes are my close friend, the regular paragraphs are my responses. Some circumstantial messages have been removed and replaced with "…". Text in green is not part of the original conversation but are clarifications or additions that clarify or further articulate my points.


I had a lengthy civil-argument with [name] the other week. I don’t know how well you’re keeping up with the crap that YouTube has been doing, but I was surprised to find [name] defending their actions.




YouTube is a private business and can kick out anybody they want. It’s completely [constitutional] so long as they don’t have it written into their agreement that they won’t discriminate against organizations for their political perspectives which I guarantee isn’t in their terms and conditions.

It’s stupid that they’re doing it, but unless they are a public service supported by the taxpayers, they don’t owe PragerU or anyone else anything.

From what I understand, there are legal pros and cons to being a platform versus a publisher and YouTube is dancing around that to be whichever is more convenient whenever it is more convenient.

Right but this all originally comes from the issue of copyrights. Platforms needed to be protected from copyright infringements of the publishers that it chooses to host. Let’s look at where this originally came from. A bookstore can’t be liable for the copyright infringements of a book on its shelf, so it’s deemed an immune platform, not a publisher. But should a bookstore have to provide access to every book that wants to be sold on its shelves? Not necessarily.

Now I understand that under section 230 of the DMCA these platforms must be impartial, but I currently think it was wrong for Congress to make that requirement.

So PragerU and others certainly have legal grounds to fight this, but I think there are some private property issues at stake here

So for example, platforms are treated as public town squares that should be impartial and let everyone speak their mind. But the difference is a town square is a public space owned and maintained by the city using taxpayer dollars, while social media platforms are more like hotel conference rooms. Can a hotel refuse to allow certain organizations that it disagrees with from renting their rooms for conferences? It depends. If they have a company policy stating that they don’t discriminate against their customers in any way and that’s in a contract that has been established between the hotel and the organization and then they break that contract by discriminating, then no, they can’t turn them away without incurring justified lawsuits. But if they have no contract or company policy stating they won’t, then constitutionally they can discriminate. Yes, it’s a really stupid business move, and the markets would punish them for it, but it’s their property and they should be free to be morons.

When somebody takes a risk and is entrepreneurial and starts a business, they’ve purchased ownership of that business and its resources through their time and risks, among many other things. But a town square didn’t take a risk to be built, or rather, nobody took a great risk to build it. [The city] taxed the people for that money. There’s no one person that owns a town square. It’s owned by the community. The community (or public) doesn’t own any social media platforms. Now we could talk about conservative representation on NPR and THAT would be a totally different conversation because it does receive taxpayer funding.

I think that the level of competition that does not even exist for YouTube makes a difference in the matter.

So you’re getting into monopolies and the founders didn’t actually believe natural monopolies were a problem so long as they didn’t use unethical practices to restrict competition. We currently have this belief that bigness is inherently bad and that anti trust laws should be used to bust businesses simply for being too big. The the problem is that’s saying businesses are guilty of crimes even before they commit a crime. That’s making it illegal to be powerful enough to do bad things, even if a business never does those bad things. We currently make monopolies illegal, not because they abuse their power, but because they COULD abuse their power and that scares us.

Yes, there’s a legitimate place for punishing businesses that use unethical practices to restrict competition, but unless YouTube is doing something to stop Vimeo and others from gaining market share, they shouldn’t be punished simply for their size.

So many of these platforms have increased our standards of living in [immeasurable] ways by providing fantastic free services. They really don’t owe us anything.

It may turn out that people get so sick of the censorship that we stop using these giants for publishing ideas and we start using new and better platforms for ideas. Facebook and YouTube weren’t started to be platforms for ideas. They were originally designed to be social platforms for us to socially connect with people. They started getting used for commercial and ideological purposes later.
But let me know if you learn anything that would throw a wrench in my position haha. I’d love to be challenged on this.

Yeah, I feel like you are saying things that are true, but I still can’t seem to ride that train because I’ve seen enough videos from content creators expressing how cruel the system, that they made successful, is being to them.

Well yeah, the system can be extremely cruel haha. That’s not arguable, it’s true. But the fundamental question is does a business have the freedom to treat its consumers poorly?

Can the people at Wendy’s swear at me right after I buy a burger from them?

That’s where I feel like YouTube’s market share makes a difference.

There’s a difference between idiotic activity and illegal activity. Market share doesn’t make you a public service. Taxpayers dollars do
Unless YouTube accepts taxpayer dollars, they’re still a private company.

Whether platform or publisher or some Frankenstein of both, they’re private.

Think about it this way, if the government has the power to force YouTube to not discriminate against conservatives, what other power does that assume?

From what I understand- that “Frankenstein monster” that they are is a problem in itself.

They could use the same power to tell BYUI that since it has a near 100% market share of education in Rexburg that it needs to not discriminate against leftist and atheistic ideas to its students.

What’s the problem with the Frankenstein monster? Monsters are scary?

Any time people try to use the government to make businesses do what they want, it opens a can of worms neither side wants to deal with.

Let the markets work. That’s the true conservative perspective.

Is BYU a platform or a publisher?

Is a private school a platform or a publisher?

[Referring to social media and search engine giants] It’s ability to identify as a platform whenever it needs to to reap the benefits of being a platform, but identifying as a publisher to avoid any of the downsides of being a platform.

Ok yeah I see the problem with that, but the benefits of platform and publisher has been defined by government. So my point is the government screwed this up from the beginning by trying to control private business more than it should.

They should never have required neutrality.

They should have only required enforcement of copyright law. That’s where all of this comes from in the first place
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I see it like there’s soccer and basketball, yet they’ve garnished enough power that they’re just kicking a basketball down the court. That isn’t fair to all of the people and businesses still needing to follow the rules of either.

But government shouldn’t have defined the rules of sports in the first place.

That’s what the markets are for in this case.

I really don’t think conservatives are prepared for the ramifications of what happens if they get their way on this one.

We are totally violating our own principles because we are frustrated and offended. We are using leftist philosophies and tactics.

When business doesn’t give you what you feel you deserve, demand the government force them to do it.

That’s when you choose a better business and leave government out of it.

Maybe that’s where we start getting on the same page- that government shouldn’t have defined that in the first place.
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Exactly

That aspect though of “choose a better business” is where I reflect on their market share and how you’d be shooting your own business in the foot to stay off of it.

That’s where we went off track. Yes PragerU has a legal case because of how the law is written. But the truly conservative thing to do would be for them to work to eliminate their own case! They should get Congress to take away their own teeth in this fight because these teeth can and will be used against us later.

Sure in the short term you shoot your foot, but let markets work. If it sucks that means something amazing is coming.

Entrepreneurs make money by listening to people complain and then building a solution. That’s the beauty of free markets.
If you want to make a fortune, listen carefully to complaints

To say that these corporations are just too big and nothing can ever compete is ridiculous in my book

How free of a market is it though when such a great majority is being silenced for having different opinions?

Silenced where?

On a platform?

Yes.

[…] That’s irrelevant. Unless there is a legal provision stopping you from starting a conservative platform, the markets are free.

Their suckiness doesn’t stop you from being awesome.

YouTube has gotten too big for a competitor to rise against it.

False

Hopefully false
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Bigness isn’t bad. It’s tactics that can be bad. I haven’t seen a single argument that says they’re restricting competition.

Haven’t they had competitors like Vine get bought out just to be squashed?

Monopolies and oligopolies generally restrict competition by price cutting, but in this case their services are free so there’s nothing unethical they can do except lobby the government to make laws restricting entry into the market.

Haha but who’s fault is that?

Small businesses don’t have to sell out! They didn’t get pushed out of the market. They sold themselves out of it. That’s a HUGE difference. They didn’t have to accept the money

If a business is actually interested in competing and providing a truly unbiased platform, they need to resist the easy money of the big firms while they scale and try to become a viable alternative

Nobody made them sell, and that is a key part of the argument. If this were some kind of eminent domain-style issue where the government were forcing businesses to close but paying them to comply, this would be a totally different issue. But paying someone a lot of money to leave the market isn’t akin to crony capitalism.

As far as I have seen, competition has never been hindered. The only place for government in this issue is on dealing with copyrights and in ensuring open entry into the market. The rest of this stuff is dangerous
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Dangerous indeed.

Oh and also contract enforcement.
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If these platforms claim to be unbiased and promise to allow everyone on and then they don’t, then the government can come in and spank them.
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I hate that content creators are so concerned about getting demonetized that it is legitimately impacting the market like they mention the that video I sent above from Game Theory.
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Do you believe we should be at all concerned about that kind of economic impact that YouTube can make?

What do you mean?

And it comes back to the idea of not punishing companies for their size but rather for their behavior. Same reason we don’t punish billionaires for being rich. We punish them if they are criminals.

It’s leftists that want to punish for size and wealth and the *potential for bad behavior.

No need for pointing fingers. I’m just looking at the economics and seeing how much of a lose-lose it is. I honestly don’t see a way to “win”.
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I’m not pointing fingers to condemn individuals, but it is important to show that these attitudes have their foundation in socialism and communism.

“Leftism”

And I agree, in the short term this does look like a lose situation. But conservatives have always been more committed to the long-term anyways. It takes a little while for freedom and free markets to work and make their course, but the solutions are always much better and worth the wait. Freedom is preserved much better with a long-term perspective, and we avoid a lot of problems by maintaining a long-term perspective. And in reality, I think the conservatives have put themselves in this place by being too liberal, in the sense that we have been to short term minded and trusting. The second any of these major organizations donated to leftist organizations or promoted progressive policies, we should’ve started developing our own platforms. The fact that we stuck around and hoped that they would roll over and play nice regardless of their progressive tendencies shows that we were far too focused on the short term and much too trusting of either the platforms or the flawed DMCA government intervention

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About Jacob Householder

Jacob is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Letter-day Saints. He is the senior intern over Development and External Relations at the Madison Liberty Institute, the Director of Outreach for the Columbus Center for Constitutional Studies, and a senior at BYU-Idaho studying Financial Economics.

Copyright © 2019 | Jacob Householder — All Rights Reserved.

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