Far-right social media personalities are attempting to leverage a controversy over exploitative content on YouTube to further their own narrative of victimization by social media companies.
Earlier this week, YouTube announced that it had deleted 270 accounts, removed hundreds of thousands of videos, closed comment sections of more than 625,000 videos and stripped ads from almost 2 million videos that depicted children being exploited or harmed. The move came after a series of reports that many videos depicting children being tortured, beaten and sexualized were being hosted in YouTube’s kid’s section. The videos had not only been allowed to remain on the site but had been allowed to bring in advertising revenue.
The news coming from YouTube fed into two of right-wing conspiracy theorists’ most prominent narratives: Massive networks of pedophiles are operating in plain sight while corporate media entities are seeking to censor conservative voices.
Right-wing YouTube personalities have been battling the tech giant over its removal of popular creators’ abilities to collect advertising revenue from their videos, in what has become known as the “Adpocolypse.” Many content creators on the far-right, including the crew at Infowars, have complained for months that their videos were marked as unfriendly for advertisers based on their right-wing ideology. Other extremist videos were placed in “limited states,” meaning only a direct link will bring viewers to the video and that the content creator earns no revenue. Now these far-right voices and their allies are using the news about the exploitative videos to claim a double standard.
In a livestream yesterday, right-wing “Pizzagate” activist and Infowars contributor Jack Posobiec expressed shock that the 2 million videos “somehow got around YouTube monitors” and called “the pedophile rings that are creating these videos” an “atrocity.” But it didn’t take long for Posobiec to pivot to claiming that YouTube censors conservative voices on partisan grounds and that the platform was “protecting pedophiles.”
“Somehow when they were focused on the conservatives and the Trump supporters doing our citizen journalism and us building up our own platforms,” Posobiec said, “2 million videos somehow just magically appear on YouTube without anyone noticing.”
Far-right YouTube personality Stefan Molyneux, who has used his channel to host extreme-Right YouTube personalities, claimed that advertisers were quicker to pull their ads from extremist political content than from the disturbing videos of children, saying it was “horrifying to see these kinds of priorities—that they went after political speech before they went after pedophiles.”
Many right-wing extremists are echoing arguments they have been making for months, including advocating for laws that prevent private platforms like YouTube from removing pundits espousing extremist politic beliefs. On extreme-Right internet hotbeds 4chan and 8chan, users have spent the last week celebrating an anticipated downfall of what they call “kiketube” and posting the personal addresses of YouTube employees for targeted harassment.
Some right-wing pundits are even attempting to use YouTube’s child exploitation problem as a political tool to argue for the repeal of net neutrality.
When FCC chairman Ajit Pai made public comments about how he believes social media sites are censoring conservatives, self-described “New Right” pundit and “Pizzagate” truther Mike Cernovich used YouTube’s public relations nightmare to argue in favor of repealing net neutrality to punish the platforms. Cernovich argued that internet service providers (ISPs) would treat conservatives better than YouTube, ignoring the fact that an ISP dictates bandwidth, not specific content.