Anyone who spends time on social media has likely heard 👂 or seen 👀 memes about conspiracies that claim digital platforms are targeting and censoring conservatives. These claims have become louder following the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6.
The latest victim of this alleged censorship is conservative entertainer Steven Crowder. He is filing a lawsuit suing YouTube over its content moderation policies, arguing that the video-sharing 📺 platform is silencing “half the country.”
Crowder’s YouTube account was locked and demonetized after he got a third-strike 🙅♀️ warning in March for allegedly spreading lies about last year’s presidential election. He denies ever making false claims and says YouTube locked his account without making a specific charge against him.
Here’s what we know about the lawsuit and the allegations that social media platforms are censoring conservative voices.
Was Crowder Silenced?
Crowder’s account was reportedly locked, demonetized, and given a strike warning 📜 for spreading misinformation about the 2020 election. He denied the allegations and announced he was filing a lawsuit on his show, Louder With Crowder, on Monday.
“As of last Thursday, May 14, my lawyer Bill Richmond and I have filed a notice of a lawsuit against YouTube and are seeking an injunction to prevent them, to stop them from currently deplatforming us,” Crowder said. “We’ve officially sent a notice of a lawsuit. Very different level—this is the big one, boys and girls.”
Crowder’s first and second hard strikes against his channel were reportedly similarly 🧐 vague. They left him and his attorney guessing at what could have triggered YouTube’s actions.
Crowder purportedly received the first strike for violating YouTube’s policy against spreading COVID misinformation. The second strike came over his commentary on a police shooting 🔫 in Columbus, OH, in April. During the incident, a police officer allegedly shot and killed a teenager named Ma’Khia Bryant to stop her from stabbing another girl. YouTube accused Crowder of “reveling in or mocking” the teen’s shooting. However, he once again denied the charge.
“This really isn’t just about us. We can find ways that we can broadcast to you,” Crowder said about the lawsuit. “But this is the world’s most powerful company—arguably, when you look at YouTube, Google, Alphabet—and they make sure that they ghost you where people cannot find, not us, but their point of view.”
The lawsuit against YouTube is the second one Crowder has filed 📂 against a tech company this year. Back in February, he announced that he was suing Facebook for, among other things, censoring his content without justification.
⚠️ Does Social Media Censor Conservatives? ⚠️
It’s pretty common to hear conservatives claim they are victims of censorship on social media platforms. However, despite many claims of anti-conservative bias, a recent report from New York University from February found Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are not actually 🤔 censoring right-leaning users.
“Republicans, or more broadly conservatives, have been spreading a form of disinformation on how they’re treated on social media. They complain they’re censored and suppressed but, not only is there no evidence to support that, what evidence exists actually cuts in the other direction,” said Paul Barrett, deputy director of the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights, to the press.
NYU published the report as a growing number of conservatives, including Crowder, claim that American media, businesses, and the government are working against them. That argument grew stronger after major social media platforms banned 🚫 former president Donald Trump in January. This only occurred after platforms grew concerned that Trump could incite more violence following the US Capitol insurrection.
According to researchers, both conservatives and liberals feel their opinions and perspectives are under attack when these sites moderate content. However, it’s tough to make the case that these platforms are censoring any one group. After all, there is little information available on what content they remove.
How YouTube Moderates Content
In an attempt at demystification, YouTube recently released information on how it moderates content on the platform. It revealed a data point called the “violative view rate,” which it will include in its community guideline enforcement reports.
According to the violative view rate, for every 10,000 views on YouTube, no more than 18 of those views are of videos that violate the platform’s rules. These rules forbid misinformation about COVID, 🤬 hate speech, spam, and more.
In a blog post about the statistic, YouTube said those numbers are a sign of progress. The violative view rate reportedly decreased by 70% since 2017 thanks to improvements to YouTube’s automated moderation system.
YouTube’s announcement is part of a broader pattern. Social media companies now often claim that their platforms do not have an issue with problematic content. This is despite researchers and critics continuously pointing out that such content often generates 📈 lots of traffic.
Social media litigation has become a hot topic in recent years. The general consensus is that private entities are not subject to the First Amendment. Many believe government intervention would lead to more rather than fewer problems.
However, it is clear now that social media has completely changed the way society engages and consumes information. Activists claim that it may be time to set new boundaries to define what is acceptable and what isn’t. Crowder’s lawsuits, and all the others like it, may be the catalyst for change.