by Gavin Haynes
Tuesday, 15
February 2022
Analysis
13:15

A misinformation ‘investigation’ reignites the censorship machine

A Times story on YouTube 'cashing in' on anti-vaxxers is an invitation to censors
by Gavin Haynes
Screengrab from the Times investigation

It’s feeding time again. 

As regular as the seasons, The Purge comes round. 

The Purge is a core culture war activity. It is the regular pruning of the Overton Window by the media-tech complex. 

The latest instalment is a Times ‘investigation’ this week, headlined: “YouTube cashes in with advertisements on Covid misinformation videos”. 

“YouTube is using an algorithm to serve up adverts from organisations,” we learn in the piece, “including Amnesty, Vodafone, Disney and HelloFresh, the meal-kit provider, alongside disturbing content.” 

The Times goes on to hone in on British vlogger Alex Bellfield, who is accused of taking a call from a 5G conspiracist on one of his live phone-in shows, “which included adverts for organisations including Vodafone and Trainline.”  

In a perfect conspiracist tribute, journalist Ben Ellery joins random dots between the mob who surrounded Keir Starmer, an anti-vax rapper, K Koke, and a channel called Rotten Politics, “estimated to earn its owner up to £9,000 a year.”  

Among Bellfield’s misinformation crimes, Ellery says, is that Belllfied’s channel “features the parliamentary footage of Boris Johnson accusing Starmer of failing to prosecute Jimmy Savile with the caption “BREAKING WOW Boris blames Keir for letting off evil BBC Saville (sic) (clapping hands emoji) HUGE STARMER FAIL”.

To which the only sane response is: ‘crying with laughter emoji’. 

The news that algorithms are used to serve internet ads is not news. But a Purge does not depend on news — it depends on the news cycle. On being able to peg into other events: be it Joe Rogan or PewdiePie, who became a notable example of a Purge in 2018 when the wildly famous YouTuber posted a video in which he paid a pair of Indians who advertised they would ‘read any message’ for cash, to hold up signs saying revolting slogans in order to prank them. The worst sign read “Death to All Jews”.   

The Purge is not like cancellation, because what happened next wasn’t really about PewDiePie. Instead, it became a George Floyd-style theatrical centrepiece in an attempt to delete the revenue streams of thousands of medium-sized YouTube accounts deemed beyond the political pale.    

The next phase involved journalists going to advertisers and saying: “Don’t you know what your product is being advertised next to?”, and presenting them with a handsome bucket of the lowest tier of filth, hard won through an afternoon’s googling. 

YouTube responded by banning many medium-sized accounts, and ending the ad revenue privileges of many others. The same pattern has played out several times now, with other inciting incidents. As the attempt to defenestrate podcast king Joe Rogan rumbles on into its fourth week, with even the White House weighing in against him, the blood is up in those sectors of journalism that regularly engage in Purge activity. Now, just wait and see what happens after this Times investigation.

So, as with Roman politics, there is a kind of elite double-act going on here. The journalists are pleading to YouTube, the enlightened despot who, wringing hands, clutching pearls, dabbing hanky, regretfully accedes to the crowd’s demands. And the cycle will continue on and on until there is very little to discuss at all.

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Andrea X
Andrea X
4 months ago

It must be me, but I got lost reading this. What is the main point of the article?

Matt M
Matt M
4 months ago
Reply to  Andrea X

It confused me a bit too. I think the idea is that lefty journalists petition YouTube (and companies that advertise on Youtube) to “demonetise” (remove adverts) from video makers who they disagree with. So the Times is targeting this guy Alex Bellfield (who is a radio shock-jock) and is asking those companies – Trainline and Vodafone – whose adverts appear on his videos whether they are happy with being associated with him. A nice bit of Woke blackmail.
I think I have got that right.

Last edited 4 months ago by Matt M
Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
4 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

Thank-you Matt, Like Andrea I had problems trying to discern what was being said. I’m still not sure what to make of it, though.

Matt M
Matt M
4 months ago

One problem seems to me is that The Times thinks that:

Among Bellfield’s misinformation crimes, Ellery says, is that Belllfied’s channel “features the parliamentary footage of Boris Johnson accusing Starmer of failing to prosecute Jimmy Savile”

And The Times is trying to use this to put pressure on advertisers. Trouble for them is that most people believe Starmer did fail to prosecute Savile.
Who really believes that when two police forces present files alleging the worst sex crimes against a household name celebrity, the boss doesn’t know about it? Kier Starmer may be innocent from a lawyer’s perspective, i.e. there is no evidence, but most people, I think would judge him guilty.

Last edited 4 months ago by Matt M
Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
4 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

I am finding it rather hard to get my head around this Keir Starmer business. I suppose I always need to know what’s to be gained and I can’t see what he had to gain from not prosecuting. Perhaps he just forgot.

Matt M
Matt M
4 months ago

I’m not saying they were wrong not to prosecute. I have no idea how strong the evidence was. But no one can tell me that the DPP didn’t hear (officially or unofficially) that one of the best known people in the country was being accused of sex crimes.
When the enquiry took place into this after Savile’s death, it turned out the CPS had lost the files so we will never know who knew what.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
4 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

I think many people are missing the point here, along with the BBC, doing so deliberately.
It really doesn’t matter if Starmer reviewed the case.
Starmer as the Leader of the CPS decided the criteria by which cases should be considered viable for prosecution. Prosecutors would receive training and guidance based on these criteria.
So he must have set the standard that resulted in Savile not being prosecuted. So it’s true to say he failed to prosecute Savile.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
4 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

Indeed, Starmer’s WMD moment

Steve Elliott
Steve Elliott
4 months ago
Reply to  Andrea X

Me too, I don’t fully understand how advertising works on say Youtube.
If you have a Youtube channel do you get a choice of which adverts can appear on your channel? I can imagine a situation where you might not want particular adverts shown on your channel.
Likewise, does the advertiser get a choice of which channels his advert can be shown on? I can imagine a situation where an advertiser might not want his products associated with a particular channel. That seems reasonable.

Bill W
Bill W
4 months ago

Despite some good news coverage, I won’t buy the Times as its too metropolitan in its outlook. It’s also too expensive. I won’t listen to Times Radio either. Reminds too much of Radio 4.
When I worked in banking we got all the papers across the spectrum from WSJ/FT/The Times and Telegraph to the Sun. The Sun (and the Telegraph) were often much better on the economy.
Happy to pay for UnHerd, Spectator, and DT.

J Bryant
J Bryant
4 months ago

I’d love to read an article about how/whether it’s possible to create a viable alternative to youtube. I think youtube has a monopoly on the advertisement market and so it’s the most profitable platform for content creators–what is the track record of people who’ve tried to create youtube alternatives?
The real solution, of course, is to use antitrust laws to break up the major tech companies.

Jason Highley
Jason Highley
4 months ago

This could have been a Tweet. But I understand why it is not, since who the hell spends time on Twitter anymore?
Get on Gab.