British spies lied about getting super-censorship powers over Youtube


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Surprisingly few comments on this one.

Unless the Irish Times article has been massively edited/corrected (and it doesn’t say it has been), I think that the misinterpretation has been on the part of Techdirt. I mean, given how the flagging system currently works, an article saying that a government agency has been given “superflagger” status which enables them “to flag swaths of content “at scale” instead of only picking out individual videos” doesn’t really imply that the agency has “super-censorship powers.” Especially when the article says that this “allow[s] them to have content instantly reviewed,” as this acknowledges that YouTube still reviews the flagged videos.

And if this was always a part of the article there could be no doubt:

Google confirmed that the Home Office had been given powerful flagging permissions on YouTube but stressed that Google itself still retained the ultimate decision on whether to remove content for breaching its community guidelines.

It’s also a bit ridiculous to think that the government should only ever act against things that are illegal. It’s perfectly legal to be an asshole, but police and the government have always discouraged people from being assholes. The community policing that was once engaged in (and is missed by many) was very heavily engaged in this sort of thing. The government typically uses it’s powers to shape society in ways that it thinks are best. And note that in the IT article Brokenshire was not talking about YouTube specifically, but about the broader government responsibility with respect to online media:

The UK’s security and immigration minister, James Brokenshire, said that the British government has to do more to deal with some material “that may not be illegal, but certainly is unsavoury and may not be the sort of material that people would want to see or receive”.

He said that among the issues being considered by the government was a “code of conduct” for internet service providers and internet companies.

That may be problematic to some, but it’s not quite the same as what Techdirt is saying it is.


What? No it’s not.

If something is so grossly offensive/inflammatory as to be illegal, then yes, Something Should Be Done, but if something is merely “not the sort of material that people would want to see or receive”, that’s a matter for those individual people.

Not me, as it happens.
That’s the point: what’s allegedly missed by “many” [citation needed] shouldn’t dictate the situation for all.

Guidance and policies such as tax allowances for certain activities, sure, but arbitrary censorship? I haven’t voted to surrender my personal responsibility and choice.

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So it’s OK to have policies that encourage marriage (between man and woman), reward investment into real estate and the buying of houses, make the purchase of alcohol, tobacco, pornography, and guns more difficult, require commercial advertising to be honest, require media broadcast over public airwaves to be in the public good and expletive free, etc., etc., but totally illegitimate to discourage the dissemination of terrorist videos?[quote=“Ministry, post:4, topic:25755”]
Not me, as it happens.That’s the point: what’s allegedly missed by “many” [citation needed] shouldn’t dictate the situation for all.
You prefer Guiliani-esque broken-window policies and zero tolerance? Community policing is widely seen as a preferential alternative to such policing policies.

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If you regularly flag bad stuff with the correct flags, YouTube pays more attention to your future flags. I’m wondering if this is all they’ve done.

I think the probem is with trusting the judgement of a bunch of politicians, also, what exactly would the criteria be? There’s lots of stuff that some people find highly offensive and some find only mildly offfensive or not at all. A perfect example would be the incident with Christy Moore’s wonderful song Weekend in Amsterdam where a bunch of prudes called in to the BBC and complained because they were apparently unaware of their ability to **not listen to things that they don’t like **‘weekend-amsterdam’

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Well, yes. Apart from the one about broadcasts having to be “in the public good”.

If the hypothetical “terrorist” videos are illegal, action should be taken. No question.
However, if they’re entirely legal (though distasteful), I demand to be the one to decide whether I can be aware of them. I have no interest in watching them, but that’s my decision, not the decision of some Government morality monitor.

Please don’t tell me what I prefer. I didn’t say that.

I can’t comment on what might be “widely seen”. I only speak for myself.
That’s my point: the right of the individual to act independently of the collective. Within the hard limits of laws, of course - I don’t mean to come across as an absolutist libertarian - but not within the nannying of ‘family-friendly’ morality.

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Pornography is legal. Alcohol is legal. Owning guns is legal. Swearing is legal. Being dishonest is legal. Choosing to rent rather than own, or to invest in property other than real estate is legal. Choosing not to marry is legal. Yet you are OK with government policies that push people either into or away from these actions, not for legal grounds but because the government approves or disapproves of them. Why is it OK for the government to essentially ban swearing on broadcast TV yet not OK for them to try and ban terrorist videos on youtube? And would your objection suddenly disappear if they simply passed a law saying that they could ban terrorist videos on youtube?

I didn’t tell you what you preferred: I asked. And I asked about broken-windows in particular because these are two styles of policing that are seen as being in tension. And you’ve said that you have no problem with the government doing anything to enforce laws, which is what zero tolerance is all about: complete enforcement of all existing laws, including for trivial offences.

The difference is that an individual can choose to ignore Government guidance. If Government disapproves of porn, tough: I can decline the filter. If the Government arbitrarily removes/blocks YouTube videos, the Government’s will is imposed without a choice.

[Yes, I know there are ways around YouTube national blocks, but if one doesn’t get to know what’s been blocked, one won’t know to look for it elsewhere.]

The difference is that, say, owning one’s own home isn’t presented as the sole option, with the Government silently, unaccountably, removing any information about the alternative.
Personally, I don’t drink alcohol, but I wouldn’t support an initiative to hide off-licences.

I’m not entirely sure I understand your point. They CAN ban terrorist videos on YouTube, and I have no objection to that.
If a video is classified as ‘terrorist’, in a way that clearly breaches the law, then I accept it should be banned. If a video is merely vaguely ‘extremist’, in a way that doesn’t breach laws about promoting terrorism, it may be distasteful, but is entirely legitimate to distribute and watch.

You cannot chose to ignore the bans on expletives on broadcast media. You cannot choose to see advertising that is prohibited. To the extent you think you can, you can also consume the forbidden “terrorist” videos at places other than youTube.

And note that the flagging system as it currently exists is not mandatory. YouTube may deal with the flags as they see fit. The government is merely voicing their position and expressing their interests in a non-mandatory manner. Nothing is being forced on society, nor is society being forcibly deprived of anything.

I’m asking you whether you would object if the government passed a law that required youTube to comply with their flagging demands. This would make the government actions certainly as legal as banning expletives on public airwaves or prohibiting various forms of advertisement.

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