Like Vader, Social Media is Altering the Deal. Pray They Don’t Alter it Further.

Remember that scene in Empire Strikes Back? Lando discovers Vader is changing things. He complains and Vader responds, “I am altering the deal. Pray I don’t alter it further.”

Vader is Social Media and Lando is every business, organization or personality that has built an audience on those platforms.

Last week the big news was that most of the major social media networks had banned Alex Jones and his media channels.

I don’t consume Alex Jones or Infowars content. That is my choice. I don’t need to be protected from any sort of speech by large privately owned companies. Now, these companies can enforce their TOS as they see fit. But this road doesn’t lead to a good place.

Generally the internet is the great equalizer. There is a very low threshold to publish anything and the market decides what is good or bad. Do we really want gatekeepers?

When any corporation that bills itself as some sort of neutral platform removes a voice because they don’t like what they’re saying, that should give us all a moment of pause. Even so, many people just didn’t care, because Jones is a terrible voice.

This week it was Prager U complaining of shadow banning. While I may not agree with Dennis Prager on all things, or with every video his channels put out, he’s nothing like Alex Jones. Yet Prager U posted this:

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After a bit of attention was brought to the issue, Facebook issued this apology:

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Pager U was not satisfied.

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So… what?

We had a deal.

These are private companies and they can do whatever they like. But there are two significant problems with the sort of behavior.

First, these social media platforms have presented themselves as open networks. They don’t have views, they allows us to share our experiences and views through their networks. They have limited restrictions for content, and generally have spent a lot of time building trust with their users.

These platforms have a sort of social agreement with the users. They have built their brand on being open. This trend is a shift away from that.

Unfortunately, these platforms aren’t admitting this behavior. In fact, they deny it. They want to continue to appear to be neutral, but also cut down on the speech they don’t like. This is problematic for users.

People who use these platforms trust that they can see content from accounts they follow (like or whatever). They signed up for it, and trust that the platforms won’t censor what they want to see.

Second, these platforms have taken money from people to build their audience. They allowed these channels and accounts to be created, and to spread their message. And they encouraged them to spend money to build their audience, to boost posts, place advertising and so on.

Now- after all that time, effort, and money has been expended- they suddenly decide the message these accounts have been sharing is not allowed. They cut off access to the very audience they encouraged the accounts to build.

The deal has been altered.

Again, they can do whatever they want, but this does not lead to a good place. But hey, these channels can get their message out other ways, right? Sure, but the platforms invited them in, asked them to invest time and money. And now they don’t want them?

If they did not want this content on their platform, they should have said so from the beginning. Not after a large audience was built. Not after they accepted payment to help build that audience. Not after users signed up to get that content.

At the very least, they should immediately refund every dollar spent on boosted posts and advertising.

Businesses and channels who took these social media platforms up on their offer to build audiences didn’t do it for the short term. I manage a few accounts on different platforms, and if they suddenly threw me off for doing what I have always been doing it would be an utter shock. These accounts exist for a reason, and the users who make up my various audiences are fans/followers/etc for a reason.

The social media platforms are changing the deal, after its been struck with both users and channels.

People who build audiences have a right to expect the platform to continue to give them access to those audiences. People who use these platforms have a right to expect them to allow the content they want to see through to their feeds. Companies who use user information to generate income, and accept payment from accounts to build and reach audiences have a responsibility to those users and account owners.

Because these are private companies, there’s not much recourse. They can use other means of communication, but the audiences they built on these platforms are on those platforms. Conservative voices who find their deal is being altered can’t do much more than pray it won’t be altered further.

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3 Reasons I’m not making Tutorial/Review/DIY/Test Videos on Youtube Anymore

youtube noI have a love/hate relationship with Youtube.

There is so much to love. It’s the great equalizer: the bar to publish is so low. Anyone with a computer and internet can publish content to the masses. The wide open nature of the platform is one of the reasons it is the 2nd largest search engine in the world.

You can learn to do almost anything from Youtube. I’ve changed garbage disposals, replaced car door handles, and much more just by watching a video from Youtube. You can research almost anything before you buy it. Someone has reviewed it. You can find innovative ways to do things. I have a small camera jib that cost me $20 to make, and I learned how to build it from a Youtube video.

I even have a few DIY/review/tutorial/test videos on my Youtube channel. But I’m not making any more. Here’s why:

1. Youtube as a community doesn’t need my voice in this space.
There are literally millions of people doing it, and doing it better. No one will notice that I’m not publishing this sort of thing anymore. No one will say, “man, when will that Scott guy make another how to video?” Instead they will find hundreds of other videos talking about the same things I used to.

My voice isn’t needed in the space.

Yes, I’ve made videos that help people. And that was very nice. But for every video I’ve made, there are many others out there doing similar things, reviewing gear, showing how to do DIY filmmaking- and doing it better than I can. Youtube as a community doesn’t need my voice in this space. And I’d rather not be on the other side of the camera, anyway.

2. Youtube as a company doesn’t care about casual creators.

The recent changes to Youtube’s partner program made it clear that they only care about a certain sort of creator. Even though I had been a good partner with zero strikes for years, they cut me loose. Why? I’m a casual creator. It’s not about the couple of dollars I lost, it’s about the respect in the relationship.

I got the message loud and clear, they do not care about me. Even though most of the videos uploaded every day- the videos that make Youtube the size it is- are uploaded by casual creators or small creators, they only care about people trying to grow a large audience. I know those are the meat of their model, but that doesn’t make it easier to stomach the blatant disregard for the years I was a small contributor to the content library.

So why should I work to help them?

I know, seems petty, right? What about the audience? Why don’t I just make videos to help people? I considered doing that. Still making the occasional video. But them I got the latest batch of comments.

3. Youtube’s tech audience is full of trolls.
Seriously, I don’t need this.

The comment section of many Youtube videos is a dumpster fire. I don’t just mean the TSIS sufferers. Those people are bad enough, but it’s worse sometimes.

Comments from trolls who didn’t watch the video but want to criticize it.
“You’re an idiot because you put music on an audio test video!” – Uh, I put music on the intro, but the actual test doesn’t have any, and you would know that if you watched it…

Comments from people who think you did it wrong.
“You’re an idiot because the camera settings are different, it’s not a good comparison.” – Uh, this wasn’t a comparison video…

My favorite: Comments from jerks
“You’re an idiot because your voice sounds funny!” – Uh, didn’t you ever heard the maxim- If you can’t say anything nice say nothing?

Frankly, this is the main reason I’m done with these videos. I’m not doing anything unique, Youtube doesn’t care about me, so why would I put up with this junk? No one will miss my infrequent videos.

I had gotten to the point where I just was turning off commenting. But that means the YT algorithm wasn’t showing my video because views, likes and comments drive it. So less people were seeing it, defeating the entire purpose.

Don’t get me wrong, some people were totally cool. Even people who disagreed with a review or wished something was different. They were kind. And if I was someone building a big audience of fans, they could drive down the trolls and “haters” and such. but I’m not trying to do that. When I made helpful videos it was to help people. If no one sees them, or if they don’t need the help, why would I subject myself to this sort of idiocy?

The internet troll thing is a symptom of larger societal problems. It’s not getting fixed anytime soon. I’m just done with it.

So, I will leave up some of my videos. And I leave the rest of it to other creators.

I will still use Youtube to post videos, just not those kind of videos. Expect to see trailers and teasers, and content I’ve made; BTS clips, stuff like that. Do not expect to see a tech review or instructions on how to do something. There is a vast array of content creators out there doing that. More power to them.