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YouTube Joins Facebook and Twitter in Saying Politicians Are Exempt From Some Content Rules

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  • YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki announced the platform would not remove politicians’ posts that would normally violate community standards.
  • The move follows another recent and similar announcement by Facebook, which said it will grant exemptions to politicians because it considers political speech “newsworthy.”
  • Both moves are largely seen as attempts to remain politically neutral ahead of the 2020 U.S. elections as well as to address and adapt to concerns pertaining to hate speech and violence.

YouTube’s Exemptions Announced

YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki announced Wednesday that the video platform will allow some posts by politicians to remain on the site even if those posts would normally violate community standards.

“When you have a political officer that is making information that is really important for their constituents to see, or for other global leaders to see,” Wojcicki said while speaking at The Atlantic Festival, “that is content that we would leave up because we think it’s important for other people to see.” 

Wojcicki continued, arguing that even if YouTube took down a video by a politician, the media would still cover it and give context to it. 

A YouTube spokesperson later told Politico that politicians are still subject to its community guidelines but clarified that it will grant exemptions to political speech if it deems it to be educational, scientific, or artistic. It will also grant exceptions to their speech in documentaries. Those exceptions, however, reportedly apply to other videos, as well.

Facebook’s Previous Announcement

Wojcicki’s announcement follows a similar decision made Tuesday by Facebook.

Also speaking at The Atlantic Festival on Tuesday, Nick Clegg——Facebook’s vice president of global affairs and communications—clarified his company’s stance on posts made by politicians, saying the platform considers political speech “newsworthy.” 

“It is not our role to intervene when politicians speak,” he said.

“I know some people will say we should go further, that we are wrong to allow politicians to use our platform to say nasty things or make false claims,” he continued. “But imagine the reverse. “Would it be acceptable to society at large to have a private company in effect become a self-appointed referee for everything that politicians say? I don’t believe it would be.”

On top of this, Facebook had already made politicians exempt from its fact-checking program. For example, that includes not flagging clips from debates where a politician makes an inaccurate or incorrect claim.

Clegg did note, however, that the exceptions may not extend to speech that could incite violence. They also do not extend to ads. 

Twitter’s June Announcement

Both moves follow an announcement by Twitter in June that it would demote posts from politicians if those posts violated community standards; however, the platform said it would still allow the posts and would include a warning.

“The Twitter Rules about [specific rule] apply to this Tweet,” the generalized warning reads. “However, Twitter has determined that it may be in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain available.”

Why Does Any of This Matter?

The announcements by each of these platforms have generally been seen as an attempt to adapt their policies concerning hate speech or speech that incites real-world violence. 

Essentially, the moves have been seen as an answer to critics who have accused the platforms of not taking a hard enough stance on politicians who break their rules.

Another major reason why these platforms are making such announcements may be to keep from being accused of bias ahead of the 2020 elections. 

Facebook, a frequent target of Democrats and Republicans, has been subject to intense scrutiny since the 2016 elections, both over concerns of Russian interference and political bias. 

“We are champions of free speech and defend it in the face of attempts to restrict it,” Clegg said in a blog post. “Censoring or stifling political discourse would be at odds with what we are about.”

By standardizing how these platforms deal with posts by politicians, it would seemingly keep them outside of any political disputes.

See what others are saying: (The Verge) (Forbes) (Politico)

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Pokémon, Star Wars & Candy Crush: How DLCs & Microtransactions Changed The Gaming Industry

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While DLC’s (downloadable content) and microtransactions are a commonly accepted practice in the gaming community, they are also still highly controversial. Some lawmakers around the world have even condemned these types of business models, likening them to child-targeted gambling. In the United States, Republican Senator Josh Hawley has proposed a bipartisan bill that would ban a type of microtransaction in games aimed at minors. 

The topic of DLC’s and microtransaction is also a hot topic among fans, with many saying that while these features can help a game, a lot of times, they feel like companies abuse these practices. We want to know: What are YOU, as a consumer, willing to pay for?

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Appeals Court Rules YouTube Can Censor Content in PragerU Case

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  • A federal appeals court ruled YouTube is not subject to the First Amendment and can censor content on its platform as part of a long-running lawsuit filed by conservative nonprofit PragerU.
  • The lawsuit alleged that YouTube demonetized and limited some of PragerU’s videos because it is biased against conservatives.
  • PragerU called the move censorship and discrimination, arguing that YouTube should be treated like the government, not a private company, in matters of free speech.

PragerU Lawsuit

A federal appeals court in California ruled that privately-owned tech companies like YouTube are not bound to the First Amendment and can censor content.

The decision comes from a 2017 lawsuit against YouTube and its parent company Google that was filed by PragerU, a nonprofit headed by Dennis Prager. The company filed its complaint after YouTube demonetized and restricted some of its videos. 

PragerU accused YouTube of being biased against conservative views, arguing that the decision amounted to discrimination and censorship. The lawsuit claims that YouTube had intentionally demonetized and restricted the videos “as a political gag mechanism to silence PragerU.”

The lawsuit also argued that YouTube regulates free speech on a “public forum,” and so it should be subject to the same scrutiny that the government is under the First Amendment.

To argue this point, the lawsuit cited the Supreme Court case Marsh v. Alabama. In that case, the court ruled that a Jehovah’s Witness had the right to give out leaflets in a town fully owned by a corporation.

A District judge dismissed the lawsuit in March 2018. In her decision, Judge Lucy Koh cited a more recent Supreme Court ruling in Lloyd Corp. v. Tanner, where the court decided that a mall could ban people from distributing anti-Vietnam War fliers on its property. 

In that ruling, the Supreme Court also clarified that Marsh v. Alabama could be only be applied to the town in the case.

Appeals Court

On Wednesday, a three-judge panel on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Koh’s decision, again ruling against PragerU.

“Despite YouTube’s ubiquity and its role as a public-facing platform, it remains a private forum, not a public forum subject to judicial scrutiny under the First Amendment,” Judge M. Margaret McKeown wrote in the panel’s decision.

“PragerU’s claim that YouTube censored PragerU’s speech faces a formidable threshold hurdle: YouTube is a private entity. The Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment prohibits the government— not a private party— from abridging speech.”

In their decision, the appellate judges pointed to a Supreme Court ruling from last year, where the highest court found that, “merely hosting speech by others is not a traditional, exclusive public function and does not alone transform private entities into state actors subject to First Amendment constraints.”

The judges also shot down a claim that YouTube was guilty of false advertising. 

Response

A YouTube spokesperson defended the social media platform and its parent company in a statement following the court’s ruling.

“Google’s products are not politically biased,” the spokesperson said. “PragerU’s allegations were meritless, both factually and legally, and the court’s ruling vindicates important legal principles that allow us to provide different choices and settings to users.”

PragerU, however, appears to believe the fight is not over.

“Obviously, we are disappointed,” the organization’s lawyer told the Wall Street Journal. “We will continue to pursue PragerU’s claims of overt discrimination on YouTube in the state court case under California’s heightened antidiscrimination, free-speech and consumer-contract law.”

But many have noted, that the ruling was not unexpected at all. According to the Journal, no court has supported PragerU’s legal argument, as it is widely accepted that free speech constraints are applied only to the government and not private entities.

The argument that social media companies like YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook should be pinned to the First Amendment is one that has been growing more and more prominent, especially among conservative circles. 

Those who support this argument often believe that certain efforts by large tech companies to regulate content on their platforms are tantamount to censorship.

These arguments are almost certainly going to remain in the polarizing political discourses around free speech and social media. However, as the Journal argues, the appellate court’s decision is “the most emphatic rejection of the argument advanced in some conservative circles that YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and other giant tech platforms are bound by the First Amendment.”

See what others are saying: (The Wall Street Journal) (Ars Technica) (The Washington Examiner)

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James Charles Faces Backlash for Impersonating Latin TikTok Character, Rosa

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  • Fans of the beloved TikTok star known as Rosa are slamming James Charles for uploading an impersonation that included the Latin character’s stereotypical accent. 
  • Some felt it was wrong for a non-Latino person to impersonate the character, while others argued that it’s commonly done across the app.
  • Amidst the drama, Adam Martinez, the creator behind the character, seemingly tried to calm fans by saying that his videos are meant to bring joy to people around the world.

James’ Post 

After much backlash, YouTuber James Charles took down a Snapchat video of himself impersonating Latin TikTok star @adamrayokay’s alter ego, Rosa.

For those who aren’t aware, 20-year-old Adam Martinez’s Rosa character is essentially an exaggerated comedic stereotype of a young Latina. Rosa videos are usually filmed as if she were speaking to someone, which allows room for viewers to upload their own take on the scene using TikTok’s duet feature or the original audio. 

The specific Rosa video that James was attempting to recreate is captioned: “POV: Rosa finds out her 8th period partner is gay.” It features Rosa explaining to her fellow classmate why she suspected he was gay. 

@adamrayokay

POV: Rosa finds out her 8th period partner is gay😭😂 #fyp #viral #foryou

♬ original sound – adamrayokay

In his Snapchat, James attempted to replicate that TikTok while putting on Rosa’s accent, a move that many felt crossed a line. 

Backlash 

Some called the impersonation disrespectful and even racist. Others noted that there is a major difference between a member of a community making jokes about stereotypes as opposed to outsiders doing it. 

Defense 

Rosa is pretty well-loved on the app and has quickly helped Martinez shoot to over 2.5 million TikTok followers since first posting as the character in December 2019. Latin creators who post Rosa duets have also been met with support and have been affectionately dubbed members of the “Rosa Cinematic Universe” by viewers. So it’s not uncommon to see people upload their own responses or takes on the character’s scenes. 

#Rosa is a trending topic on TikTok with over 1 billion views.

Because of Rosa’s popularity, many have defended James for recreating a character that tons of others online also impersonate. 

However, some argued that James’ version is slightly different in nature, aside from the fact that he isn’t Latino. Rather than mouthing over the original audio of the clip or responding in his normal voice using the duet feature, James specifically used an accent. 

The conversation then shifted to whether or not impersonating the character’s accent was any different than lipsyncing the audio. Others said any non-Latino’s impersonating Rosa is wrong and should stop.

Adamrayokay Attempts to Calms Fans

Without specifically mentioning the drama, Martinez tweeted about the purpose of his videos in an apparent attempt to alleviate the tension. “My videos are made to bring JOY to people all around the world,” he wrote. “Let’s remember that keep the positivity going!!!” 

“Love u,” James responded to the post. 

James later sent out a tweet that many assumed was, at least in part, related to all of the backlash. “I get that a lot of people don’t like me. I’ve learned to accept & understand it – but the extent that some people on this app are willing to go in attempt to ruin my life is truly sad,” he wrote.

“I hope one day people find a way to feel validation without having to bash others for likes.”

See what others are saying: (DailyDot) (Seventeen) (PopBuzz)

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