Tuesday, May 07, 2019

YouTube: Now playing, everywhere

Can the world’s biggest video-sharing site police itself?

Below are some excerpts from a big article in The Economist which surveys the issues and difficulties of regulating social media generally and YouTube in particular.  It essentially comes to no conclusions. I think one conclusion is possible however.

On all social media platforms, the administrators are constantly urged to ban "hate speech".  But it cannot be done -- for the simplest of reasons: One man's hate-speech is another man's fair comment, or even part of his religion.  The obvious recourse in that situation is NOT to censor at all.  And that was the initial policy of some sites.

Fascist attitudes are however much more common than tolerant ones and the torrent of attack and abuse directed at site administrators had to have an effect.  All administrators have now been trying to please everyone  They have however  discovered a version of an old political formula:  You can please all of the people some of the time, some of people all of the time, but you cannot please all of the people all of the time.

So the acceptable censorship of social media sites is an impossible task.  All we can hope for is some compromise that is not wholly unreasonable.

But if we cannot reasonably regulate ALL of the content on a site, can we reasonably regulate SOME of the content satisfactorily?  I think we can.  I think we can regulate it in a way that avoids political bigotry.  That is a much smaller ask than regulating everything but it should be possible.

What I propose is a variant on the ancient Roman
Tribunus plebis.  A tribune is someone appointed to safeguard the interests of a particular group.  I think social media platforms  should appoint two tribunes -- one for the Left and one for the Right.  And NO content should be deleted without the approval of BOTH tribunes.  Each tribune would need a substantial staff and he should be free to choose and train  his own staff.  The tribune himself (or herself) should be appointed by the head of the relevant party in the Federal Senate

That should do the trick

YouTube’s immense popularity makes the question of how best to moderate social-media platforms more urgent, and also more vexing. That is partly because of the view taken in Silicon Valley, inspired by America’s right to free speech guaranteed by the First Amendment, that platforms should be open to all users to express themselves freely and that acting as a censor is invidious. With that as a starting point platforms have nevertheless regulated themselves, recognising that they would otherwise face repercussions for not acting responsibly. They began by setting guidelines for what could not be posted or shared —targeted hate speech, pornography and the like— and punished violators by cutting off ads, not recommending them and, as a last resort, banning them.

As governments and regulators around the world have started to question the platforms’ power and reach, and advertisers have pulled back, the firms have gradually tightened their guidelines. But by doing so they have plunged deeper into thorny debates about censorship. Last year YouTube banned certain kinds of gun-demonstration videos. In January the platform said it would no longer recommend videos that misinform users in harmful ways, like certain conspiracy theories and quack medical cures. It also banned videos of dangerous pranks, some of which have caused children to hurt themselves. On April 29th Sundar Pichai, boss of Google, declared, in an earnings announcement that disappointed investors, that “YouTube’s top priority is responsibility”. He said there would be more changes in the coming weeks.

Governments meanwhile are taking direct action to curb content that they deem inappropriate. On April 21st, after bombings in Sri Lanka killed 250 people, its government took the draconian step of temporarily banning social-media sites, including YouTube, to stop what it called “false news reports”. After the Christchurch massacre, Australia New Zealand  passed a hastily written law requiring platforms to take down “abhorrent violence material” and to do so “expeditiously”. Even in America, where social media has been largely unregulated, members of Congress are drafting measures that would give significant powers of oversight to the Federal Trade Commission and restrict how online platforms supply content to children, an area where YouTube is especially vulnerable.

Ms Wojcicki says she needs no persuading to take further action against unsavoury material. Yet YouTube does not plan to rethink the fundamental tenets that it should be open to free expression, that people around the world should have the right to upload and view content instantly (and live), and that recommendation algorithms are an appropriate way to identify and serve up content. What is needed, she says, is a thoughtful tightening of restrictions, guided by consultation with experts, that can be enforced consistently across YouTube’s vast array of content, backed by the power of artificial intelligence.

Video nasties

YouTube’s record thus far does not inspire much confidence. Children’s programming, one of the most popular sorts of content, is a case in point. Parents routinely use their iPads or smartphones as baby-sitters, putting them in front of children and letting YouTube’s autoplay function recommend and play videos (see chart 3). Children are served up nursery rhymes and Disney, but sometimes also inappropriate content and infomercials.

YouTube has acted more decisively in other circumstances. Its crackdown on terrorist-recruitment and -propaganda videos in early 2017 used machine learning and newly hired specialists. There was an obvious incentive to do it. In what became known as “Adpocalypse”, big firms fled after learning that some of their ads were running with these videos, essentially monetising terrorist groups. There have been a couple of sequels to Adpocalypse, both related to children’s content, and both first uncovered by outsiders. This adds to the impression that YouTube lacks a sense of urgency in identifying its problems, and responds most rapidly when advertisers are aggrieved.

Ms Wojcicki disputes this, saying she began to recognise the increasing risks of abuse of the platform in 2016, as it became clear more people were using YouTube for news, information and commentary on current events. She says that was when she started to focus on “responsibility”. In 2017, as a result of Adpocalypse, she began expanding the firm’s staff and contractors focused on content issues; they now number more than 10,000, most of them content reviewers. Chris Libertelli, the global head of content policy, says that Ms Wojcicki and Neal Mohan, the chief product officer, have told him there are no “sacred cows” in deciding what content should be limited, demonetised or banned. Ms Wojcicki says that with wiser and tighter content policies, and the company’s technology and resources, she and YouTube can solve the problems with toxic content.

Everything in moderation

While the need for regulation might be clear, the details of what should be regulated, and how, are messy and controversial. Few free-speech advocates, even in Silicon Valley, are zealous enough to want to permit beheading videos from Islamic State or the live-streaming of massacres. Yet most of the questions about content moderation that YouTube wrestles with are much less clear-cut. YouTube appears to be weighing whether to ban white nationalists, for example. If it does so, should the site also ban commentators who routinely engage in more subtle conspiracy theories meant to incite hatred? Should it ban popular personalities who invite banned figures to “debate” with them as guests? Ms Wojcicki is conscious of the slippery slope platforms are on, and fears being criticised for censorship and bias.

Another important question will be how to go about enforcing restrictions. When you serve a billion hours of video a day the number of hard calls and “edge cases”, those that are hard to categorise, is enormous. The tech firms hope that AI will be up to the job. History is not reassuring. AI has been trained for straightforward tasks like spotting copyright violations. But even with low error rates the volume of mistakes at scale remains immense. An AI capable of reliably deciding what counts as harassment, let alone “fake news”, is a pipe dream. The big platforms already employ thousands of human moderators. They will have to hire thousands more.

Given the complexities, wise governments will proceed deliberately. They should seek data from platforms to help researchers identify potential harms to users. Regulations should acknowledge that perfection is impossible and that mistakes are inevitable. Firms must invest more in identifying harmful content when it is uploaded so that it can be kept off the platform and—when that fails—hunt for it and remove it as quickly as possible. With the great power wielded by YouTube and other social-media platforms comes a duty to ensure it is used responsibly.


Hollywood: Reaping the whirlwind of social justice radicalism

For decades Hollywood, along with academia, has been one of the two prime movers of cultural Marxism in America: promoting leftist causes and narratives, undermining traditional morality and social structures, and rewriting history. Increasingly, showbiz is now being choked by its own wokeness – just as our universities are – as the social justice whiners have inevitably begun to turn on their own.

Hollywood is floundering. This past Easter weekend at the box office was the worst in more than a decade. The big studios with their mega-budget franchises (where would Hollywood be today without Marvel Comics?) increasingly have to resort to overseas profits to keep afloat. Showbiz awards shows, which have degenerated into self-congratulatory displays of anti-Trump virtue-signaling, have been failing spectacularly, posting record low ratings year after year. Trump Derangement Syndrome has caused celebs to publicly double down on their contempt for all those unwoke Americans in the flyover states, pushing audiences farther away than ever before. Meanwhile, independent flicks like Gosnell and Unplanned aimed at underserved conservative audiences are succeeding despite media blackouts and social media subversion.

Instead of engaging in some serious self-examination and concentrating on projects that might win back the American heartland moviegoer, establishment Hollywood is now preoccupied with proving its commitment to identity-politics ideology. Enforcing diversity of gender and skin color (but not of worldview) in all the “above-the-line” fields (acting, directing, producing, showrunning, etc.) has become the dominant consideration in the entertainment realm now. Actress Brie Larson, for example, says playing superheroine Captain Marvel is “my form of activism”; she has has spent almost every minute of her movie promotions slamming “white male critics” and speechifying about gender equality. “Oscars are so not white this year,” CNN announced after a record number of non-white actors won awards in the 2019 ceremony. Deadline declared ecstatically that “Diversity was one of the biggest winners.”

Like all totalitarian environments, Hollywood is also purging itself internally of anyone deemed insufficiently woke. Likeable, nonpartisan comedian Kevin Hart, for example, was pushed out of hosting this year’s Academy Awards show because of a ten-year-old “homophobic” tweet. Actress Roseanne Barr was famously removed from her own show and denounced as a racist for joking that Iranian-born, Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett resembled a character from Planet of the Apes. And the industry which never tires of making movies condemning the Communist-era blacklist has taken up a blacklist in support of the search-and-destroy #MeToo movement. Showbiz hypocrites who slandered Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh as a rapist yet who knowingly covered for, if not engaged in, decades of systemic sexual predation are now demonstrating they #BelieveAllWomen by shunning the suspects among them, even over unconfirmed accusations.

Celebrated writer-director Woody Allen is the latest target, thanks to longstanding but unproven accusations of child molestation against him. Retail giant Amazon entered into a four-movie deal with Allen in 2017 knowing full well about those controversial accusations; but then the #MeToo movement swelled and Allen expressed concerns that it might “lead to a witch-hunt atmosphere.” As if to prove his point, Amazon decided to shelve his film A Rainy Day in New York. The director has since launched a $68 million lawsuit against Amazon, whose lawyers claim Allen breached their contract by making “insensitive” comments about #MeToo. In any case, Allen has become so radioactive that one consultant told Fox News, "Any company today that would do business or be involved with Woody Allen would put themselves in harm's way and be potentially burnt to ashes as a brand." Presumably any individual working with Allen would face the same incinerating ostracism. Many of his former cohorts have already publicly sworn off working with him or expressed regret over having worked with him.

Breitbart’s John Nolte called the blacklisting of Allen an “un-American smear” by Hollywood “moral cowards”:

This is objectively obscene to anyone who believes in artistic freedom, fairness, and the concept of free expression — but look at what we have on our hands again; a Hollywood that doesn’t have the moral courage to stand up, that once again refuses to do the right thing if it means risking a backlash in the industry or alienating a potential sponsor-employer like Amazon.

Pointing out that the Communist-era blacklist was an “abomination… because innocent people were destroyed, not just over their political beliefs, but with lies — lies told by liars with axes to grind,” Nolte says Woody Allen is being accused “of a #MeToo crime during a moral panic filled with the kind of false and spurious allegations that have already consumed Oscar-winner Geoffrey Rush and comedian Aziz Ansari.” The #MeToo movement lobby is powerful and ruthless; when superstar Matt Damon, a card-carrying Progressive activist, expressed the reasonable opinion that allegations of sexual misconduct need to be “analyzed on a spectrum” because “a pat on the butt is not the same as rape or child molestation,” the backlash was so overwhelming he was cowed into a public apology.

On another social justice front: like gay and lesbian activists before them, transgender activists are now engaged in a full-court press for societal acceptance – and not just acceptance, but full-throated, culture-wide celebration. Hollywood, of course, is the key to advancing that mission, just as it was the key to bringing about the culture-wide embrace of homosexuality through TV shows such as the sitcoms Will & Grace and Ellen.

Breitbart News reports, for example, that trans activists are targeting the Internet Movie Database website (IMDb.com) for “deadnaming,” or publishing the birth names of trans actors, at least two of whom are claiming that IMDb has not replaced their original names with their new names as requested.

So far IMDb is resisting, noting in a statement that “to preserve the factual historical record,” it strives to accurately reflect “cast and crew listings as they appear in a production’s on-screen credits at the time of original release.” IMDb adds the new name to the trans actor’s page and credits, with the name credited on previous productions added in parentheses. That sensible practice is not enough for a few trans actors who, like all totalitarians, want to rewrite the factual historical record to conform to their preferred reality.

IMDb won’t be able to hold out long. Neither it nor any other Hollywood entity has the will or inclination to stand firm against the relentless, bullying LGBT lobby.

Social justice is never about justice. It is about power and payback. It is about superimposing the Marxist paradigm of oppressor-versus-oppressed on every one of society’s structures, traditions, and moral codes, then ratcheting up the pressure until they all collapse – to be replaced by the redistributive justice of the collectivist State. Like American universities, where the student revolutionary inmates are now running the asylum, establishment Hollywood has brought this on itself. It is now in the process of reaping the whirlwind of its own all-consuming progressive agenda.


Charlottesville Confederate Statues Are Protected by State Law, Judge Rules

A Virginia judge has ruled that local authorities in Charlottesville cannot remove two Confederate statues because they are war memorials protected by state law, a decision that came nearly two years after a deadly white nationalist rally there that was nominally organized to protest a plan to move one of the statues.

The ruling is the latest turn in a long-running battle over the statues of the Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.

Some, including the city of Charlottesville, which was sued after the City Council voted to remove the Lee statue, see the statues as monuments to racism. But others, including a group of citizens who filed the lawsuit, argue that they are Civil War memorials.

Judge Richard E. Moore of Charlottesville Circuit Court said that the statues can be viewed as both monuments to the war and as symbols of racism, but only because both sides in the case agree that they depict Confederate military leaders. That inherently makes them war memorials, he wrote.

“While some people obviously see Lee and Jackson as symbols of white supremacy, others see them as brilliant military tacticians or complex leaders in a difficult time,” the judge wrote.


Rugby Australia is between a rock and a hard place

They are facing  the prospect of penalizing Bible quotations.  What Folau said is straight from Romans chapter 1. An attack on   the Bible is normally swerved away from by even the most "correct" bodies.  On the other hand the intolerant Left WANTS them to penalize Bible quotations they do not like.

And there are two additional factors.  Tearing up Folau's contract could end up sending them broke.  Rugby does not have a big following anywhere.  The big football codes in Australia are AFL and League.  So Rugby cannot afford to get it wrong. 

And the second factor is that there are a lot of Polynesian players.  Polynesians are often big men who are good at football.  And many Polynesians are also strong Christians who agree with Folau about homosexuals.  Some have threatened to strike if Folau is penalized.  So losing their best players is a prospect facing Rugby.  Will the fans turn out for second-string players?

So you see why the negotiations are not getting anywhere.  I think Rugby will have to back down.  If they do they will probably find that the Leftists are just a paper tiger after all

Israel Folau's family have defended him as his code of conduct hearing is set to continue for a third day, after no decision was made on whether his multi-million dollar contract should be ripped up.

The landmark hearing will resume on Tuesday following a weekend stalemate at Rugby Australia (RA) headquarters in Sydney.

The 30-year-old's loved ones have spoken out in support of his controversial social media posts, insisting it comes from a place of love, not hate.

Just four months into his four-year contract, Folau turned down a lucrative $1million settlement offer to end his row with RA, 7NEWS reported.

'The important thing for us is not so much the outcome, but how the glory of God is revealed throughout this situation and that his truth is preached to the whole world,' his cousin Josiah Folau said.

His father Eni Folau, a pastor at the family's Christian church insists that his son has done nothing wrong.

'Israel does not do any wrong at all, all the words he posted doesn't come from him, it comes from the Bible,' Mr Folau said.

Both his family and fellow church-goers insist the rugby star is pure at heart and a decent man.

They believe what he posted is not 'hate speech' but comes from a place of love, trying to 'save souls'. 

A three-person panel, with representatives from RA and the Rugby Union Players' Association, are determining Folau's fate on the field.

RA chief executive Raelene Castle was asked to provide further evidence on Sunday, with NSW Waratahs supremo Andrew Hore also called on as more than 15 hours of legal jousting wasn't enough for the three-person panel.

Folau is fighting to save his career after Castle issued the dual international with a 'high-level' breach notice last month and threatened to tear up his four-year, $4 million contract following his latest round of inflammatory social media posts.

Last month Folau took to Instagram to proclaim 'hell awaits drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolators' unless they repent and turn to Jesus.

The full-back of Tongan descent was warned by RA last year after sharing a similar homophobic post that claimed gays were destined for hell.

Folau is being represented by high-profile solicitor Ramy Quatami and barrister Adam Casselden, who recently worked on the coronial inquest into the murder-suicide of Sydney family Maria Lutz and her children Ellie and Martin at the hands of their father Fernando Manrique in 2016.

The three-person panel is made up of chair John West QC, RA representative Kate Eastman SC and the Rugby Union Players' Association-elected John Boultbee.

If the tribunal determines that Folau has breached his contract, the panel must then decide if the breach was severe enough to terminate his career.  



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the  incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of  other countries.  The only real difference, however, is how much power they have.  In America, their power is limited by democracy.  To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already  very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges.  They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did:  None.  So look to the colleges to see  what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way.  It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH,   EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and  DISSECTING LEFTISM.   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  Email me (John Ray) here


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