Does the left own the social Web?

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In the Examiner, Robert Cox points to the recent banning of conservative columnist Michelle Malkin at YouTube for "objectionable content" as an example of something he's been warning about for some time -- left-wing dominance of major Web 2.0 sites may push conservative ideas out of the 21st century equivalent of the public square:

Last week [Malkin] received notice from YouTube, the world’s most popular video sharing service, that her video had been deemed “offensive.” The result? Her account was terminated and her videos deleted.

YouTube refused to say why her videos were “offensive” and there was no avenue available to challenge the decision. Today, her videos are gone and her voice is suppressed on the most important video “node” on the Internet.

So? She can just show her videos somewhere else, can't she?

Of course she can, but that would fail to understand the powerful forces of “network externalities” at play online. There is no Avis to eBay’s Hertz for good reason: Once an online network is fully catalyzed, there is no reason to join an alternative network. If you want to get the most money for your Beanie Baby collection, you are going to want access to the most potential bidders — and that means eBay.

YouTube is poised to become the eBay of video file sharing. If you want the biggest audience for your video, you want access to the most potential viewers — and that means YouTube.

I'm less worried about YouTube, because you could still find Malkin's material on the web if it were being hosted by another site. But I am worried about the infrastructure that helps us find our way around the web. We are very dependent on Google, Technorati, del.icio.us, and those companies' willingness to be evenhanded in their treatment of web content. There's reason to be concerned: We already know that Google will alter search results to avoid giving offense in authoritarian and totalitarian countries.

What if these sites began to shun conservative content? While it would be possible to set up an alternative set of web search, blog search, and social bookmarking websites, we'd only be creating a conversation that is disconnected from the broader discussion about the issues. How would Google users, for example, realize that they aren't getting the best or most complete search results, and that they really should be using multiple search tools? Conservatives would wind up talking to each other -- to the rest of the world it would look like no one holds to conservative ideas anymore.

I don't know what the solution is, but as Robert Cox says, it's time to pay attention to the problem.

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4 Comments

Nathan Phelps said:

The one I'm most worried about is Digg--great concept, but the top Diggers it seems are so filled with vitriolic Bush hatred that the political section (and sometimes even tech) is always filled with left wing garbage. I can’t for the life of me figure out why there is not a conservative presence on that site at all. If you look at the comments on the links, they are almost always lefties.

Dan Paden said:

Conservatives would wind up talking to each other -- to the rest of the world it would look like no one holds to conservative ideas anymore.

We have already come quite close to that state of affairs. "Progressives," in my experience, generally simply do not listen to conservative viewpoints and argumentation. Although YouTube's action is awful, I think the reality is that any liberals looking at Malkin's videos weren't really engaged with the content; they are simply looking for something they can interpret differently so that they can accuse her of lying, with the practical result of this kind of behavior being that already, conservatives talk to conservatives, liberals talk to liberals, moderates just kind of sit there and nod. Each person, to a distressing degree, already lives in something of a customized reality.

Bobby Author Profile Page said:

I wonder what effect if any the YouTube buyout by Google will have.

Jeff Shaw Author Profile Page said:

When I see the Red State / Blue State map, and I hear about this I think about Thomas Schelling's dynamic segregation idea. Perhaps I am oversimplifying it a bit. Will/does a form of natural segregation exist in cyber space? Could you do any thing about it, if you wanted to?

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on October 12, 2006 10:35 PM.

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