Imagine a Teddy Roosevelt presidential summit on the plight of sweatshop workers. TR chooses to bring in the workers themselves and not their exploiters.
Imagine the crusading “muckrakers” of the then progressive press complaining that the sweatshop owners weren’t invited.
The cognitive dissonance of such a response would be dizzyingly “topsy-turvy.”
President Donald Trump recently held a Social Media Summit. He invited mostly what are called “content creators” (“creators” for short) in that world.
They were there to share about the broken promise of open platforms by “Silicon Valley” corporations and the corporate press complained that the promise-breakers didn’t get a seat at the table.
The summit was, however, less than all it might have been as it focused chiefly on the patent biases against Trump himself and the political right among “Silicon Valley” companies.
Those are serious concerns. If the Russians are supposed to have unduly affected the 2016 election via a few social media ads and fake accounts, how much greater a threat are American social media companies’ desire to undo 2016’s outcome in 2020?
The long-term problem for the nation and the world, however, is a devolution of content hosts like YouTube from risk-taking open platforms to ones that bury edgy content and keep creators from finding an audience.
That change is impacting content creators across the political spectrum.
How? Let’s look at an analogy: Newspapers count readership as all copies in the hands of readers, not just subscribers.
Now imagine the Lewiston Tribune learning that 90 percent of its nonsubscriber readership was not just gone but deliberately re-directed to a national newspaper.
Tribune Publisher Nathan Alford’s usually pretty chipper but that’s the sort of thing that might just bring a frown to his face.
YouTube’s parent company, Google, has rewritten the viewership algorithms to kill back nonsubscriber recommendations for independent creators while directing visitors to posts from corporate news giants.
That’s the report from online newsman David Pakman and he’s done his math.
The result is that if you want to see a video on any given news topic, your search results are going to recommend content from one of the nation’s major newspapers or broadcasters and not creators like Pakman, no matter whose content has the most views.
When it comes to old media YouTube is remarkably politically neutral. They’re favoring both Fox News and MSNBC while effectively muting lefties such as Pakman, centrists such as Tim Pool and righties such as Bill Whittle.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. The original deal with YouTube was if you build a more viral mousetrap and the world beats a path to your door, then the search recommendations (and advertising dollars) followed.
Google has decided to sell out the “little people” in favor of the same media outlets that already dominate old technology.
Google claims those cable news dinosaurs are “authoritative,” but they’re hardly recognizable as news sources.
Their news presentation is dominated by commentary programming skewed in favor of the network’s editorial slant. It’s like a newspaper with four sections of opinion, another for classified ads and just one that presents news.
As with 24-hour music television the 24/7 news model wasn’t sustainable so the companies shifted their focus, giving us their equivalent of Jersey Shore.
Neither a clip from a Don Lemon nor one from Sean Hannity are “news.”
YouTube used to be a way to escape, to cut the cord and find an alternative to what the corporate news conglomerates had to offer.
Social media companies are now the fat cats and exhibit the character regression screenwriter John Milius described so well in “The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean:”
Gamblers and whores strike it rich, put on the trappings of respectability and look down their noses at those who remind them of their wild past. They become blue-stockinged prigs and self-appointed social gatekeepers.
Working to make something of yourself is admirable; rigging the system to keep others down is not.
As Irish creator Dave Cullen (and others) have put it, “So long as people are not breaking any laws with the content they publish online, they should be permitted to freely express themselves.”
That’s what free speech means and it’s what social media promised users and contributors.
When Trump does give social media executives their turn, as he’s said he will, he needs to remind them that freedom — and their promise to uphold it online — is how they made it big in America.
Hennigan, of Lewiston, is an instructional technology administrator at Lewis-Clark State College. His email address is email@example.com.