Be wary of internet censorship

internet

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Carlos Latuff

By Devin Malone

Just about everyone was nervous when Google announced their YouTube Heroes project a few months ago. This system essentially turned into Big Brother from George Orwell’s “1984,” as it allowed people to survive for YouTube themselves. The problem was clear that the system could easily be abused for de-monetizing and even removing videos completely. Furthermore, YouTube Heroes gives the power to “mass flag,” which allows users to remove or report a large amount of videos for suspected misconduct.

As expected, many YouTubers openly detested this new system. One of the more notable examples was from famous content creator Stephen Williams, who has over 3.7 million subscribers.

“When you crowd source something like this [moderation], you basically leave the front door for anybody. You’re basically giving anybody a badge and a gun so they can enforce your policies here on YouTube, and statistically speaking, they aren’t going to enforce them the way you want them too,” Williams said in a video to his audience

This is not the first time Google caused a major uproar when it comes to censorship. Earlier this year, many movie critics demanded that YouTube change its policies on fair use which was being abused by movie companies to shut down unfavorable reviews.
Viewers spread the hashtag Where’s the Fair Use (#WTFU) until Google changed their policy to allow more footage in videos and allow warnings before videos are removed from YouTube.

Many forget the importance of free speech on the internet. Living in a country where words and ideas are wiped out of existence like nothing would truly be a nightmare. But the truth isn’t too far from home.

Across the Pacific Ocean is The People’s Republic of China, who holds the largest internet censorship act in history. It is often dubbed “The Great Firewall of China” and is notorious for cracking down on free speech and completely blocking websites and social networking sites such as Google.

To most of us, this amount of censorship is close to something that could only be seen in a dystopian sci-fi film. It’s akin to an Orwellian nightmare, where freedom of speech, an unalienable right for us Americans, is just a distant memory. Yet the sad truth is that places like this do exist, and the nightmare only becomes worse with time and technological progress.

According to Business Insider, over 52 keywords have been banned in China for simply having any small thread of what happened in Tiananmen Square in 1989. These words range from direct key terms like “Tiananmen Square,” and “Democracy,” to the outlandish “Big Yellow Duck,” and “63+1.”

This is China’s way of subtly erasing the event from its collective memory. Here in the West, we do not erase our history even if it is as awful as the slave trade, segregation or the forced migration of the Native Americans. In order to better ourselves and future generations, we must remember.

As Americans, each and everyone one of us should be wary when a bill like Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA), which was originally meant to stop online piracy but was shut down due to the fear that it would have allowed for abuse, comes along. The internet is a powerful tool for information, knowledge and free speech, and we should keep it as such.
We are extremely lucky to be living in a digital revolution, and it is important that we protect our content from those who wish to censor and silence our voice. So, be alert and vigilant when these things like YouTube Heroes come along, because they are just the building blocks that spell out “BIG BROTHER.”

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