IslingtonTribune

The independent London newspaper

It’s left to public protest to shame and change YouTube

23 May, 2019

Parents of knife crime victims demonstrate outside YouTube offices in King’s Cross

WHILE the government laboriously debates how to regulate the US monopolies of the digital age, the various companies insist they are not publishers but mere platforms and thus should give the public the unfettered right to post their thoughts and opinions – however vile and damaging they are to the social fabric.

Under pressure for allowing videos and blogs that spout racist ideas or tirades from extremist politicians sneering at women and threatening rapes, Facebook and YouTube have reluctantly introduced what they see as safety-nets of checkers – but it is pretty late and far too ineffective.

Too many escape the net. One recent YouTube channel, run by an anonymous German right-winger, drew comments about a German Green female politician that we would not print but YouTube are only too happy to do so. That is just one example. But there are too many that are infesting the net.

There is little doubt that while the Brexit debate, enmeshed with a sense of betrayal felt by the majority who voted to leave the EU, has given confidence to extremist politicians to publicly voice racist abuse or deploy discrimination, the simmering stew of racism has been allowed to churn in the unregulated websites for several years – and in today’s poisonous atmosphere are now becoming more commonplace.

The latest figures published this week by the pollsters Opinium showing that racism, abuse and open bigotry have risen substantially since the referendum of 2016, are not surprising. But the basic fault-line runs through the internet. It lies with the discerning public to take the big channels in hand. Governments will have to regulate them just as, essentially, the mainstream media is controlled, one way or another, by laws of contempt and libel.

Freedom of speech must be defended but it must not allow incitement to violence to surface – and it is this which Facebook and YouTube, for instance, are guilty of.

We welcome the parents of knife crime victims who demonstrated recently outside YouTube offices in King’s Cross. Theirs is the action that will bring about change.

It is hard to believe that existing laws cannot prosecute members of the public who believe they can say anything they want on screen however much it may incite violence or is cruel, libellous or defamatory. But the “information” revolution does appear to have brought about a paralysis in officialdom. Only public protest will change that.

Finals fiasco

ONCE football was the beautiful game untrammelled by the laws of commerce.

All that changed in the 1990s – and now it has become as commodified as any other goods in the economy.

So, money talks – and the result is a monotonous shuffle of the cards enabling the most heavily invested clubs to win all the prizes.

Nothing exemplifies the corrupt nature of football today more than the fiasco over the European competitions involving British clubs where the Europa League final is being played in Azerbaijan, defined by geographers as an Asian country, and a location that naturally limits the number of fans who can make the journey; or the fact that the European Champions final, which could have been played in England, is scheduled for Madrid, enabling airlines and hotels to engage in the most blatant form of profiteering.

Whatever would the founders of football, born in the 19th century, have made of it all?

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