How it Feels When YouTube Disappears Your Video

YouTube’s policy of suppressing conservative broadcasters – Alex Jones and his Infowars site is the most prominent example – hit close to home early last Tuesday morning when a video I was on was suddenly taken down. It was there one minute, with 10,000 views and that number climbing rapidly, and then it just disappeared. Immediately, this action took the censorship of conservative views from the distant realm of somebody else’s experience to one of my very own. In a long career of writing and commenting, I had never encountered anything like it.

Every Monday, I contribute a one hour political analysis by video Skype to The Hagmann Report (HR). HR is a 3-hour nightly conservative television and radio program that streams live on a variety of mainline audio sites and, until last Monday, on its most prominent platform, YouTube in HD.

The show is produced and hosted by Erie, Pennsylvania-based father and son licensed investigators, Doug and Joe Hagmann, who rebranded themselves in 2012 as political talk show hosts. Since they launched their program, the Hagmanns have built up a loyal audience of viewers and listeners, and each episode of HR is now regularly accessed over 100,000 times.

Joe and Doug Hagmann

The irony is that last Monday’s Hagmann Report program, titled “Controlled Chaos and the Destruction of the West,” went on exactly as planned and without a hitch. The Hagmanns are Christians, as are many of their guests, so as usual there was nothing excessively controversial about it – no bad language, no personal attacks, no copyright infringements, no incitements to violence. Just hard hitting political analysis. I had the last hour, as I do every week, for my reporting and commentary, during which I talked about a variety of issues and showed some of my unpublished archival photos of political notables including President Jimmy Carter, Henry Kissinger, and Senator Edward Kennedy.

Right after the show ended at 10 PM ET, the three-hour video podcast was automatically uploaded to  YouTube. Within four hours, it had gotten 10,000 views and about 100 viewer comments. Suddenly, after six hours online, with the numbers continuing to climb and without warning, it was all gone –  never to be seen again. In its place, a new Web page appeared, scrubbed of content except for this ominous screen:

Screen shot Tuesday August 21, 2018 4:22 AM EDT

I happened to be awake at that pre-dawn hour. When I saw the new black screen where the video of the program had previously been, it felt like a stab at the heart. A dark night of the soul. One third of the video that was now gone was my work, and I had spent several days researching and preparing for it. Now it was erased, disappeared down the memory hole.

Even though the action wasn’t aimed specifically at me by name, I wondered if I was now going to be caught up in a YouTube or social media censorship ban and put on some algorithm blacklist. It was  eerie and unsettling and more than a little scary. It had an epic, turning point feeling to it. At that moment, all I could think of was that George Orwell’s prophetic 1949 dystopian novel 1984 had now come fully to life.

And that wasn’t all. Monday’s Hagmann Report video had obviously been taken down as the result of a third party (i.e., troll) complaint, or possibly by something that went on during the show triggering a mysterious YouTube algorithm alarm. Or possibly as a result of nothing at all except the increasing need on the part of the Internet giants to avoid the mistakes they think they made in 2016 that resulted in the unexpected victory of Donald J. Trump, whom all of them opposed in his run against Hillary Clinton. Mistakes including allowing conservatives to have a fair shot at communicating their messages unfiltered with the American people.

Strike Three and You’re Out

The censorship of Monday’s episode was accompanied by a “first strike” against the Hagmanns. Two more strikes and they’re out – totally banned from YouTube for life. One result of that first strike is that the Hagmanns are now prohibited from live streaming their nightly program on YouTube for the next 90 days – a ban scheduled to end conveniently two weeks after the November midterm elections. The importance of the midterms has been a frequent topic of discussion on the Hagmann Report.

Later on Tuesday, when Doug Hagmann contacted YouTube in an attempt to find out what had resulted in the first strike, he was simply emailed a form notification about the serious consequences of violating the service’s “community standards.” It was not specific at all to the Hagmanns’ Monday show that presumably had crossed some invisible line.

In “A Snapshot of the Internet Kill Switch in 2018,” published August 18 in Waking Times, staff writer Terence Newton puts the “community standards” excuse at number one on his list of methods being used by Big Tech to suppress conservative voices online.

1.) “Violation of Community Guidelines” (The Outright Ban) – First and foremost is the now ubiquitous, blanket statement that users of corporate media platforms get when their pages, channels, accounts are shut down. It never points to anything specific, or offers an opportunity to right the transgression. It is legalese for ‘f$#k off, you’re not wanted around here.”

What the Hagmanns and many other conservatives are being subjected to is Kafkaesque. The defendant, in this case a conservative YouTube user who uploads content, is anonymously accused – possibly by a bot running an algorithm – found guilty, and sentenced in a matter of a few hours. There is zero transparency. Not only is there no appeal, but also no explanation of what the alleged infraction even was. A defense is not possible! It’s like a secret star chamber form of in-justice.

As experienced investigators with inside sources, the Hagmanns had seen the writing on the wall and they had previously established an alternative video streaming option linked from their Web site. But it lacks the easy and familiar access of the ubiquitous YouTube platform. (YouTube is currently the second most popular Web site in the world, according to Similar Web analytics and almost every other Web ranking site.) Without the ability to continue to stream their show live on YouTube, the Hagmanns, like others who have been similarly restricted or bounced from the platform, are facing a struggle to maintain their audience numbers.

The Hagmann Report is not a marginal or fringe show. Guests on the program have included some big conservative names like Diamond & Silk, Dinesh D’Souza, and David Horowitz. The show’s profile and audience were clearly on the rise, a fact that I can attest to based on the steadily increasing number of emails I have received in recent weeks in response to my weekly appearances. The number of views of my stand alone videos edited from the three-hour long HR program has also been growing, now averaging close to 20,000 per video. banner August 25, 2018

Undeterred, the Hagmanns have pledged to keep on moving forward. Their website now features the banner “TRUTH CAN’T BE SILENCED.” YouTube’s first strike still allows them to upload edited segments of their programs to their YouTube page after their nightly show has aired on the Hagmanns’ own platform. But having been subjected to a first strike, as a content provider myself I am seeing how one cannot help but start to self-censor content – since even the appearance of a politically incorrect or insensitive wrong move of some kind, no matter how minor, might lead to a second strike. And then there would be no buffer between that second strike and third strike oblivion.

As a sign of their standing in the political talk show profession, the Hagmanns will be participating in the next Radio Row event organized by the White House and taking place in Washington, D.C. the week after Labor Day. At Radio Row, leading conservative talk show hosts from around the country are invited to broadcast their programs live from a location close to the White House where they can take advantage of easy access to some top administration officials.

It’s Not Just About YouTube

This case history of an experience with censorship by YouTube, which has been owned since 2006 by Google (the #1 Web site in the U.S. and globally), illustrates the power of the California-based tech giants to suppress and manipulate political dialogue – and even to influence the outcome of elections. Robert Epstein, Ph.D., an author, editor, and longtime psychology researcher and professor, has recently emerged as a prominent critic of the power being wielded by “Big Tech.” Speaking on Tucker Carlson Tonight on Fox News on August 24, 2018, Dr. Epstein said that Internet content doesn't matter so much these days but filtering does, and that the filtering “is in the hands of big tech.”

Speaking the night before at Breitbart News Network’s live Town Hall event “Masters of the Universe: Big Tech vs. Free Speech and Privacy,” live-streamed from New Orleans, Epstein noted:

That’s a power to shift opinions that’s in the hands of a handful of people in one particular town in Northern California, affecting people around the world, with no way to counteract what they’re doing, with no competitors out there. . .

Is democracy dead? Because if it’s true that they have this power, then democracy really is an illusion. . . I think that these companies held back to some extent in 2016. They held back on their power to shift votes. I don’t think they’re going to hold back now.

According to an article on August 24 at Breitbart, Robert Epstein cited a chilling result from one of the recent studies he conducted:

I calculate that these [tech] companies will be able to shift upwards of 12 million votes in November with no one knowing that they’re doing so … and without leaving a paper trail for authorities to trace. 

Addenda: Writing at the Gateway Pundit on August 20, Jim Hoft examined the broader context – the conspiracy, if you will – that is now coming more clearly into view in his article aptly titled “Top Far Left Organizations Bragged About Working with Facebook and Twitter to Censor and Eliminate Conservative Content.” Hoft’s article, and a companion piece the same day at World Net Daily by Art Moore, “Memo reveals Soros-funded social-media censorship plan,” are well worth a close reading, including following the links to primary sources that the authors include in their stories.

Peter Barry Chowka is a veteran reporter and analyst of news on national politics, media, and popular culture.  He is a frequent contributor to American Thinker and The Epoch Times.  Follow Peter on Twitter at @pchowka.

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