Where did freedom of speech go?

Yesterday, YouTube deplatformed one prominent Slovak YouTuber. Different views are no longer allowed.

a year ago   •   3 min read

By Vladimír Záhradník
Image by Mizter_X94 from Pixabay

Foreword

This post is about deplatforming Igor Bukovský, M.D., who was for quite some time targeted by mainstream media and other prominent figures as someone sharing fake news. For the purpose of this post, you can substitute his name with anyone you know, for example Alex Jones.

Deplatforming

You probably caught the news yesterday that YouTube deleted Dr. Bukovsky’s channel. A lot of people are applauding that, and it scares me…

Igor Bukovský deplatformed

I highly value freedom of speech and plurality of opinions. In a healthy society, people of all opinions should be allowed to debate with each other. Such discussion then leads to conclusions from which we can move forward as a society.

When the Matyinko brothers came up with the Let’s talk initiative, the media downplayed and belittled their activity. “This is that Maduar music band…” and so on. They tried to dehumanise them in our eyes. Yet the only thing Matyinko brothers were trying to do was to finally have a discussion with representatives of all parties.

Incidentally, in the neighbouring Czech Republic, such a debate is taking place. Czech television broadcasts discussions on pandemic with representatives of scientists from both camps. And their science section with Daniel Stach is also doing an excelent job.

As for Mr Bukovský, when I read the journalists’ articles about him, they are all like copy-pasted. Hoaxer, conspirator, manipulator… However, those who follow him closely will find that much of the information he published was later presented in the mainstream media, perhaps nine months apart. However, there is no mention of who reported it long before then.

Personally, I try to judge each and every video, each and every opinion, separately. I don’t accept everything from him as fact, just as I don’t dismiss everything reported in the newspapers. That’s the way it should be.

Aside from the views of myself and Mr Bukovsky, I think it sends a very bad signal if the views of only one group of people are taken. If only because there are those, like me, who need information from both sides and who make their own informed decisions. And since I haven’t gotten answers to my questions yet, I’m not vaccinated. Nor will I do so under any pressure. I have nothing against those who choose otherwise — it’s none of my business.

YouTube is flaunting some kind of ommunity guidelines. A great many predominantly conservative YouTubers have already been blocked under that umbrella. Mostly overnight, without warning. YouTube doesn’t make a habit of giving warnings, much less reasons. You’ll only learn that you’ve “violated community rules.” Yet these are so vague that you’re left at YouTube’s mercy.

We can argue that YouTube is a private product of one company, and I accept that argument. But consider that today only a few social networks constitute the public online space — in Slovakia it’s mostly YouTube, Facebook, perhaps Instagram.

If someone is going to argue that “let him go elsewhere…”, that solution is short-sighted. Have you even heard of platforms like Rumble, BitChute, Odyssee? Probably not… The consequence is that the unpopular minority voice is quietly silenced and life goes on.

And the worst part is that it is silenced not by state decree, but by the arbitrary decision of a private company, or a handful of them.

This danger was fully realised by our own, European politicians, such as Angela Merkel, when Donald Trump was deplatformed in a matter of hours. They realised that they are not safe either and that it can happen to any of them.

Private companies are beginning to influence our public opinions significantly with their decisions. We cannot do anything about it ourselves, but it is good to talk about it.

And if, after reading this post, you say to yourself that it’s a good thing that YouTube and Facebook censor such people, then I have a thought experiment for you. Imagine claiming that the Earth is round and having your opinion silenced by representatives of the Flat Earth movement, which has a majority and the power to suppress dissent. Fortunately, today we are no longer burned at the stake for an opposing view like Jan Hus or Giordano Bruno, but are we really that much better than we were in the Middle Ages?

Try asking yourself: “What about tomorrow? Who’s next?” Because believe me, what you can say today on these online platforms, but also outside of them, publicly, is shrinking by the day.

Those who give up basic liberty for a little security deserve neither liberty nor security. — Benjamin Franklin

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