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Violating YouTube Guidelines By Playing Already-Published YouTube Videos
Here’s an interesting little case worth thinking about. The Serfs is a left-wing YouTube channel and Twitch stream. A lot of their videos are fairly standard BreadTube formats — they mostly take clips from deranged right-wing influencers and dissect them in a funny and entertaining way. Steven Crowder, the former voice actor for Arthur who now screeches about cancel culture and gets mad at Daily Mail stories for YouTube traffic, is a regular target for the The Serfs.
The Serfs’ sometimes-aggressive style has resulted in a fairly antagonistic relationship with YouTube over the years. They had one of their channels briefly taken offline by YouTube just last month. And, last week, they ran into some more trouble with the platform again. This time one of their videos was taken down because, according to an email they shared from YouTube’s Community team, The Serfs didn’t do a good enough job contextualizing the clips they used of right-wing YouTubers like Steven Crowder talking about election fraud.
The video that was taken down has been reuploaded this morning, now with a huge disclaimer at the top of it.
The Serfs’ video features a montage of big conservative YouTube personalities like Crowder, Ben Shapiro, Charlie Kirk, Tim Pool, and Dave Rubin either denying that Joe Biden won the election or softly advocating for an insurrection. As the video points out, these comments all came from YouTube videos that are freely available on the platform right now.
YouTube has taken by far the softest stance on Trump of any major platform since the Capitol siege on January 6th. They suspended him for a week and they then instituted a “Presidential Election Integrity policy” on December 9. From YouTube’s announcement about the new policy:
On December 9, we started applying our Presidential Election Integrity policy (below) to the 2020 U.S. Presidential election, meaning we remove content that misleads people by alleging that widespread fraud or errors changed the outcome of the 2020 U.S. Presidential election uploaded on or after December 9. We have begun issuing strikes for new content that violates the policy uploaded on or after January 7, 2021.
So it seems that what The Serfs have done is technically violate this policy by reuploading footage from, in some cases, still-monetized videos. Because the clips are going up in a new video after YouTube’s deadline of January 7, it’s triggering the takedowns. This is wildly hypocritical and stupid, but also completely in line with everything else YouTube does. Extremism researcher Becca Lewis wrote about YouTube’s completely ineffective (but politically useful) moderation strategy in The Guardian in December:
YouTube has often backed itself into a corner by attempting to stay as “apolitical” as possible and turning deeply value-based judgments into the parsing of minor details. In an attempt to avoid accusations of politicized censorship, the platform has frequently tied itself up in knots, focusing their decisions on the smallest technicalities when determining whether a piece of content has violated its terms.
And at this point, this is the only real moderation the platform can do. YouTube has allowed right-wing channels to dominate their community’s culture to a point where the site is basically completely radicalized. I assume YouTube will also be central to a newly acquitted Trump’s 2024 campaign. And YouTube wouldn’t want to miss out on the ad revenue and time-on-site pump that that whole shitshow will bring.
Incidentally, I had a tweet from The Serfs I’ve been meaning to drop in Garbage Day for a week or two now. Seems like as good a time as any to share it:
The Greta Thunberg “Toolkit” Scandal Rolls On
A few weeks ago, I wrote about how a fairly innocuous Google Doc shared by climate activist Greta Thunberg had become the center of a massive Hindu nationalist conspiracy theory in India. The document was an extremely basic rundown of why farmers in the country are protesting and a collection of petitions and hashtags you can use if you’d like to support them.
To catch you up, Indian farmers are protesting a series of bills passed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration last year. The bills removed government regulations that prevented massive private agricultural businesses from taking away business from smaller farmers. Thunberg, Rihanna, and several NBA players have come out in support on social media of the farmers in the last month. And Hindu Nationalists, who use social media pretty much just like any other kind of right-wing nationalist group around the world, have used the global interest in the protests as a way to concoct a global conspiracy theory that helps them defend Modi’s administration and — you guessed it — it also involves George Soros!
My friend Hussein made a very good point over the weekend that conspiracy theories are endemic on Indian social social media. And this kind of paranoid misinformation is the direct result of companies like Facebook using the incredibly populous country as a way to boost their user metrics. Fun Indian social media fact: A few years ago, so many Indian boomers were whatsapping “good morning” to each other that it would actually create lag on the app.
The “toolkit” conspiracy theory has spun so far out of control that Disha Ravi, a 22-year-old climate activist based in Bangalore, was arrested for sharing it. Ravi has been accused of sedition and spreading “disaffection against the Indian state” for editing a few lines of the public Google Doc.
Blaming India’s massive and unstable information landscape solely on American companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Google is reductive, but, like the Capitol insurrection, those companies are currently playing an undeniable role in spreading the conspiracy theory that Ravi is implicated in. Beyond Ravi, Hindu nationalists are also now claiming that the protests are secretly the work of global cabal of Sikh separatists, raising concerns this could all get a lot worse real fast.
Some Good Security Guard Content
My favorite Japanese culture blog, Sora News 24, has some cute translated reactions from local Twitter users if you want to check them out.
A SFW Attempt At Explaining The NSFW Monster Energy Drink Thing
The Fate series is a franchise of video games, light novels, and different anime series. The main premise is that famous figures from history and mythology appear and battle each other during a tournament called the Holy Grail War. Each of these historical figures are given a class — archer, lancer, saber, etc. The most well-known character from Fate is probably Saber, who you think is going to be King Arthur, but is revealed to be a female King Artoria Pendragon, depicted as a blonde anime girl. I’ve watched two Fate anime adaptations and they were fine. Fate/Zero is probably the best place to start if you’re curious about checking them out.
Fate/Grand Order is the newest entry in the franchise and it’s a mobile RPG with a gacha mechanic, i.e. there’s a virtual currency you can use to unlock different characters. The game is REALLY big right now. Also, it’s fans seem to be outrageously horny.
Over the weekend, a Fate cosplayer named @kotomitako dressed up as the character Astolfo, which is depicted in the game as an androgynous, sometimes femme-coded French dandy. In one of the photos, @kotomitako used a Monster Energy drink can to show how big their penis is. You can see a censored, but more revealing picture here.
Even though @kotomitako’s account is private, this still caused a MASSIVE uproar on Twitter. They have 29,000 followers, so it wasn’t like no one saw this. The pictures started trending, which caused the name #Astolfo to start trending, which then caught the attention of Faye Mata, the actor who voices Astolfo in the game. And, well, you can guess what happened next…
10/10. Great job, everyone.
The Joker Said The Thing
If your feeds were awash in Joker content yesterday, it’s because a huge new trailer for Zach Snyder’s Justice League dropped. The film, which existed primarily as an internet conspiracy theory known as the Snyder Cut is finally seeing the light of day next month. I actually just completed a rewatch of all the DCEU movies for a Patreon-exclusive podcast I do. Folks, these movies are real bad. And it seems like Zach Snyder’s Justice League is going to be just as bad, if not worse. The trailer, which you can watch in full here, looks unfathomably ugly and incoherent.
The standout moment of the trailer, however, comes at the end, when Jared Leto’s Joker says the phrase, “We live in a society where honor is a distant memory.”
The first part of that line, “we live in a society,” has been central to a vaguely confusing meta-meme about the Joker for the last few years. The phrase was popularized by subreddits like r/gangweed, which, if you’ve never visited it, is EXTREMELY dense. The easiest way to explain the whole joke is that it’s a subreddit where people pretend to be gamers and incels. But like all online irony projects, it can be extremely hard to tell who’s in on the joke and who isn’t. For instance, Jared Leto. Does he get what’s happening here? Doubtful!
Zack Snyder's Justice League @snydercut“They said the age of heroes would never come again.” Zack Snyder’s Justice League arrives on @HBOMax March 18th. #SnyderCut https://t.co/ZY1rYEcu5M
Welcome To The Post-Truth Nightmare Of The Gorilla Glue Challenge
It’s been a big month for Tessica Brown, the woman who accidentally sprayed her hair with Gorilla Glue adhesive. She donated a huge chunk of the GoFundMe money to the plastic surgeon who got the glue out. She has an agent now. Dr. Michael Obeng, the surgeon who got the glue out, is now a huge celebrity, as well. Honestly, it felt like one of those quintessential 2013 news cycles. Crazy thing documented on the internet, balloons up into national news story, makes the rounds on all the morning shows, has a happy ending, everyone moves on with their lives.
And in a sense, that is exactly what happened. But what’s interesting is that TikTok is a much different beast than something like YouTube. Its algorithm is aggressive about promoting iterative content, which is how we’ve ended up with the #gorillagluechallenge hashtag.
When I checked the hashtag this morning it had “13.6k views,” but I’ve seen other screenshots taken over the weekend which show much higher numbers, which makes me think TikTok may be trying to limit the hashtags spread. The hashtag also sometimes surfaces a warning about risky behavior if you search for it.
The #gorillagluechallenge videos that I’ve seen are kind of a perfect summary of TikTok culture. They’re a mishmash of people’s seemingly-real attempts to Gorilla Glue themselves to stuff and videos that are absolutely fake. There is also a tremendous amount of racism on the hashtag, as well.
Ultimately, I think the #gorillagluechallenge is a lot like the Tide Pod challenge — not actually a real thing in any meaningful way. But it’s hard looking at a hashtag like that and not sort of shuttering at TikTok’s ability to create trending content out of literally anything.
A Good Video About Cooking
This was sent to me by a reader named Erika. Turn the sound on to get the full horrible effect!
P.S. here’s a good tweet.
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***