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YouTube Wrongly Removes Video of Goldberg Interview

Copyright © 2024 by Ari Armstrong
May 30, 2023; ported here May 28, 2024

YouTube wrongly removed video of my interview with University of Utah historian Robert Alan Goldberg, about his Yale University Press book, Enemies Within: The Culture of Conspiracy in Modern America.

The audio of the interview, hosted at Substack, remained available. I now have uploaded the video to Substack as well, where it is currently available (along with show notes and so on). [Update: I subsequently moved the audio and video files to Spotify.]

YouTube offered no real reason whatsoever to remove the content, making only the vague and inaccurate claim that it somehow violates YouTube's policies against "harassment." The video absolutely does not harass anyone, as any sensible person can learn by listening to the interview.

The video does, however, firmly stand against harassment of individuals as often motivated by conspiracy mongering. The entire point of the discussion is to understand and counteract bogus conspiracy theories. For example, Goldberg and I discuss anti-Semitic tropes related to bogus claims of conspiracies.

Why YouTube chose to remove the video now, nearly three years after I released it, is a complete mystery to me. I have not received any complaints about any of my other videos hosted by YouTube.

Because of YouTube's inscrutable and indeed Kafkaesque appeals process, I have no idea what led to YouTube removing the content. I have three guesses. First, YouTube's automatic systems flagged the video, perhaps because they confused discussion about harassment with the examples of harassment being discussed. Second, some well-meaning person, not attending to the context of the video, reported the video because of some similar confusion. Third, someone maliciously reported the video and lied about it "harassing" people just because they don't like the contents of the discussion.

Regardless, in this case, YouTube is actively undermining my efforts to critique forms of harassment rooted in bogus conspiracy theories. If YouTube actually cared about reducing harassment, it would promote my discussion with Goldberg, not ban it.

I regard my discussions with Goldberg as my two most-important interviews. I also interviewed Goldberg about his important book about the history of the Ku Klux Klan in Colorado, Hooded Empire. In both interviews, my aim was to better-understand (and help listeners better-understand) troubling aspects of American history, to help promote a better future.

I also wrote columns for Complete Colorado related to these interviews.

YouTube sent me an email, to my gmail account, notifying me of the removal of the video, on May 23. However, because I usually use a different email address and only occasionally check the gmail address, I did not receive the email until today, May 30. I immediately appealed, and YouTube immediately denied my appeal, obviously not having actually investigated the matter.

The initial email states:

Hi Ari Armstrong,

Our team has reviewed your content, and, unfortunately, we think it violates our harassment policy. We've removed the following content from YouTube:

Video: Robert Alan Goldberg on American Conspiracy Theories . . .

How your content violated the policy

Content that contains targeted harassment or malicious insults (such as racial slurs) isn't allowed on YouTube. This includes, but is not limited to, stalking, threats, unwanted sexualization, and prolonged name-calling or malicious insults that target intrinsic attributes.

How this affects your channel

Because it's the first time, this is just a warning. If it happens again, your channel will get a strike and you won't be able to do things like upload, post, or live stream for 1 week.

Again, YouTube's claims that the video in question harasses anyone are absolutely false.

In my appeal, I explained that the video is a discussion with an academic historian based on his book from an academic press. The actual contents of the video apparently did not matter at all to YouTube. Within a few minutes, YouTube sent me a pro-forma rejection of the appeal. Had any actual, sensible person at YouTube actually evaluated the case, that person almost immediately would have realized that YouTube's ban is absurd and horribly unjust. Obviously, no such person evaluated the case.

The May 30 response to my appeal states:

Hi Ari Armstrong,

We have reviewed your appeal for the following:

Video: Robert Alan Goldberg on American Conspiracy Theories We reviewed your content carefully, and have confirmed that it violates our harassment policy. We know this is probably disappointing news, but it's our job to make sure that YouTube is a safe place for all.

How does this impact your content

We won't be putting your content back up on YouTube.

If your appeal was for a warning, you will not be given another warning in the future.

If your appeal was for a strike, the strike will remain on your channel.

You can find more information about warnings and strikes at the YouTube Help Center.

The YouTube team

Obviously, YouTube's review of my appeal was a complete sham. YouTube's claim that it "reviewed [the] content carefully" is a bald-faced lie.

Because I am a small player in the media world, YouTube can push me around with impunity. I have no real means of recourse. I complained on Twitter and on Substack Notes, and that accomplished exactly nothing (other that to raise some awareness of my plight).

My only move, if I wish to escape YouTube's arbitrary and unjust moderation policies, is to start posting videos elsewhere. Thankfully, I can do that at Substack, which, as far as I can tell, has more-sensible content moderation policies. Eventually I may move all of my videos to Substack. Doing so does cost me the "network effects" and search visibility of using YouTube.

Image shows that YouTube removed a video featuring historian Robert Alan Goldberg.

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