Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
It appears my Google account is slated for deletion (alexaobrien.com)
657 points by harryh on Sept 13, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 266 comments

Well, she is easier to defend than Nazis. So, here I go...

Freedom of expression, not just free speech the legal concept, should be a societal goal. Google has every right, legally, to delete this stuff. However, in an ideal world, they'd do no such thing and would let people judge based on the merits of the message.

I don't know about the rest of you, but I'd like to work towards that ideal world.

Maybe the solution is enabling people to realistically host content themselves, on their own property, and just ensuring the ISP is nothing but a dumb pipe? Maybe the solution is distributed content and P2P networks?

Either way, the continued aggressive censorship by Google, while their legal right, leaves a bad taste in my mouth. They can do it, but I don't have to like it.

That said, if anyone can think of something that I can do to help, I'm all ears.

Above being more than a legal concept, it's also not really about expression, ie. the biggest value to society is not from Alexa O'Brien being able to express her thoughts and feelings, which is a minor benefit to her, but in us being able to read them and then choose the best ideas to adapt/copy/implement. The fact that you can make your (realistically, very tiny) contribution to the culture is much less important than being able to access everything created by other people.

Robin Hanson calls it "free hearing"[1]. The branding could be improved but the argument is exactly right.

We shouldn't even hide behind commentary and journalism. The source bin Laden videos should be available for us to judge. Removing them is not an act against the terrorists but against the public.

[1] http://www.overcomingbias.com/2010/01/free-hearing-not-speec...

which is a minor benefit to her, but in us being able to read them and then choose the best ideas to adapt/copy/implement

One nitpick: it's no minor matter to Ms. O'Brien that she be able to complete her big project, and the keep the tools for doing others in future.

My more important point is that is the common case: our own freedom is important morally, but materially we benefit most from other people's freedom. Web pioneer firms are actually good examples here: they were free to build technologies that are handy for you and me even though that exposed knowledge some people would have wanted stifled.

The value of "free hearing" as a consequence of "free speech" is just one case of this and I am happy enough if the newly coined term makes the situation clearer.

[Disclaimer: I work for Google, but am obviously speaking here only for myself and not the company. Nor do I know anything about what the company plans to do about this case.]

The cynical side of me thinks that a society with no control over (certain) information is one which is more vulnerable to control by bad actors. We have more of a filtering problem than an access problem at the moment - there's too much information to support all beliefs so people are more likely to become entrenched in whatever they do believe.

It doesn't matter what your cynical side thinks. Let them be "entrenched in whatever they do believe" if that's the case. All cases of totalitarianism have been possible by "filtering", not the free flow of information.

"Censorship is telling a man he can't have a steak just because a baby can't chew it." - MT

Thus far (and all before the internet). I consider it more likely that the next form of totalitarianism takes form in fundamentalism.

> a society with no control over (certain) information is one which is more vulnerable to control by bad actors.

Centralized (state and/or corporate) control over information is itself an incredible asset to bad actors. Goebbels et al..

Very true.

But it gets even worse when you look at lobbyists paid by corporations.

In the long run, Google will have to be split up into smaller pieces. You can't control this evil - and greedy -corporation otherwise anymore.

Unless Google can strike a mutually beneficial deal with the government. I don't think either operate in the best interests of the public.

Pre-hutton BBC was good and Al Jazeera still is. It's not all Goebbels, especially when that state media has a charter that asserts its independence and commitment to objective reporting.

One major problem with state-owned centralized media, in my opinion, is that objectivity usually degrades into propaganda whenever that's seriously requested by a senior government official, e.g. in times of war. IIRC the BBC was not always forthcoming about setbacks during the early parts of WWII, for example.

It's the same with corporate media as well:

ex: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phil_Donahue#MSNBC_program

I think there is a significant difference in extent. There are certainly many cases where US corp media lays obediently in the government's lap, but there are also some crucial cases where it was majorly non-compliant - TV coverage of the Vietnam war being possibly the most significant & influential example.

>there are also some crucial cases where it was majorly non-compliant - TV coverage of the Vietnam war being possibly the most significant & influential example.

Indeed, though you'll notice that ever since the gory coverage of Vietnam the mainstream media censors war to a much higher degree because they learned TV audiences find the true images of war to be unbearable. Public support for war drops sharply when they see the mangled dead bodies of their own soldiers while they eat their TV dinners.

"Television brought the brutality of war into the comfort of the living room. Vietnam was lost in the living rooms of America - not on the battlefields of Vietnam."

-Marshall McLuhan

Non-state owned media is hardly better in this regard.

By and large I think people's desire for raw data has grown from a mistrust of the News stemming from the move away from reporting towards commentary and hidden agenda.

Once upon a Time you could mostly trust the news but these days we have "no spin zones" which are in fact entirely spin. You can no longer sit back and consume news, to get the real facts requires a great deal of effort and attention which is exhausting.

You might wish to look into the history of journalism. I've written about this before, but there really wasn't a golden age of journalism. This doesn't mean good journalism didn't exist, just that there have always been biased sources.

Head to your local library and hit the archives. From yellow journalism to papers owned by political parties, bias and dishonesty has always been a problem.

Correct, it's just more apparent in the information age, when the raw data can sometimes be found and the bias shown.

> Correct, it's just more apparent in the information age, when the raw data can sometimes be found and the bias shown.

Of course, data scientists have their political opinions as well. As do journalists deciding which data to publicize.


Anything particularly you'd point at of yours?

Oh, just comments here on HN, Slashdot, and similar. I was once a freelance journalist, so I probably should write up something more formal and better researched. I'm hoping to get some writing in during the coming winter. I have a lot to say.

I'd differ strongly with your premise. There was a golden age of journalism, though it probably peaked with Watergate. Izzy Stone has a great Day at Night interview discussing this.


The period probably began with Lippmann's Public Opinion, though it was coverage of the Second World War that probably marked the start of the true peak. By 1980, something was already decidedly off.

I'm reading Robert McChesney who does a very good job of recapping the history in Communication Revolution.

> Once upon a Time you could mostly trust the news

Could we trust them or did we simply not have the means to fact check them and communicate the errors? Awful current affairs programs were around before the web and they were reporting some pretty dubious "facts" back then. Tabloids have been around for 100 years, maybe more.

It was a different balance. We, in effect, were in a forced trust position. Access to raw information was time consuming and expensive. If it could even be had.

Because of that, media was regulated differently. A more diverse body of media (pre-media for profit news and consolidation) as well as the fairness doctrine and a non-profit public service expectation were all strong norms and law in play.

Technical limits forced all of us, including the media, to take it more seriously.

Yes, we could trust them more than we could now, but also yes, we could not check so easily too.

Spin isn't bad. People can see spin and spin things the other way in their head.

Choosing what is important to include or what not to include is dangerous.

And side of me that studied history thinks that a society with control over (certain) information is one which is more vulnerable to control by bad actors...

Freedom always carries risks.

Yup, and intellectual feudalism is one of them, one that I hope we manage to avoid.

I believe humans are smart enough to filter and learn as they go. We are a resilient species. We will adapt and grow, it is as it always was.

Andrew Potter, when writing for Canada's National Post, recently called it the Right to Hear.


The world at large is pretty complex, but participating members of a democracy often need to take simple decisions based on that complicated web of information. Society's evolution and functioning requires that we take those decisions.

In many cases it's not possible for all individuals to understand because it would very time consuming and one may not have the training to do so either. So we need the help of journalists and agencies to make sense of the world.

I agree that the availability of sources where it is reasonable, should be made to the public. But that is also not always possible, since it may, in some cases, expose the sources to danger.

A consequence of this is that since we rely on intermediaries to simplify information for us, we are vulnerable to malicious propaganda conveyed by agents disguising themselves as trusted authorities.

How tightly bound we are to just a few large tech companies is... unfortunate.

I would love it if it were easier for the common person to host their own stuff. Between all the concerns involved (security, hardware, demand, etc.) I'm not sure how feasible it is. I've given it a lot of thought, and have slowly unwound my custom tech setups - from domains, to emails, to hardware. Mostly for the "bus" factor. When my dad died, my mom let his computer sit untouched for years. At some point I transferred the files on it to my computer so they wouldn't disappear forever. But still, a decade later, and it's just sitting there. She never bothers to turn it on.

I have a family, and my wife is not technical in the slightest. If I were to be gone tomorrow, there's no way she would have a clue as to what to do. My #1 barometer for everything I use in life is how easy it is for her to use things.

It's interesting to me how temporary and inaccessible our digital lives actually are.

This is a great point, because I think it shows that people who are trying to redefine the contours of the standard free speech conversation (which had historically been about freedom from government imposed limits) are attempting to solve the wrong problem.

The problem is dependence on huge monolithic tech platforms, such that we feel that the societal value of free expression is threatened by the standard forms moderation that we had accepted as normal for most of the history of the internet.

Now, the ability to moderate carries a significant amount of power in a way that didn't use to be the case. And some people, looking over the available options and the effort required to pursue them, would now prefer to resign themselves to permanent dependence on huge monolithic platforms and just focus on making sure those platforms are not engaging in moderation.

But this is hugely problematic for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that moderation at least sometimes offers a genuine good to users because toxic, manipulative, illegal behaviors that undermine the platform are removed. There's a "societal value" in having flourishing discourse that isn't compromised by the toxicity that would naturally occur without moderation. And there is good reason to not want to make that sacrifice.

Either side offers a distasteful sacrifice. So maybe the answer is to try and bypass the dilemma by making non-centralized communication more accessible, so that people like your wife (or my mom, or my dad's entire side of the family) don't have to make that kind of choice.

There's also a very blurry line between a common carrier and a publisher. Social media platforms don't want to be liable for content published on their site, but they also want the right to delete content at their own discretion. Somehow, the courts have granted them this wish.

The USPS has a similar monopoly to YouTube, but they're obliged to transport any printed material that is legal. There's no hidden algorithm that shreds letters containing the wrong keywords. There's no team of Indian outsourcers searching your mail for content that breaches an arbitrary set of rules. Nobody but a court can prohibit you from using their service.

I think we collectively need to decide whether social media services are publishers or common carriers. The present ambiguity over their status gives them an unreasonable degree of power with unreasonably little responsibility.

> The USPS has a similar monopoly to YouTube

No, the USPS has a legally-protected monopoly, where alternative services are prohibited from competing with certain core functions.

Alternative web video distribution services are not prohibited, and there are several that specialize in content that is unwelcome on YouTube.

> The present ambiguity over their status

What ambiguity? They are active distribution agents (neither publishers nor common carriers, in that regard, though they are often also publishers, more like bookstores).

It only seems “ambiguous” when framed with a false dichotomy.

The ambiguity is that facebook and youtube can't be sued for hosting illegal content. They are not responsible for user created content.

Yet, even though they have many of the legal protections of being a pseudo common carrier, they have none of the obligations, such as the obligation to treat all content equally.

For example, it is illegal for your phone provider to eaves drop on your conversations and censor your phone conversations.

But it is NOT illegal for facebook to do the same thing. Why are they treated differently?

> The ambiguity is that facebook and youtube can't be sued for hosting illegal content.

Taking that as unvarnished truth [0], for the sake of argument, that's not at all an ambiguity, it's a crystal clear status.

> Yet, even though they have many of the legal protections of being a pseudo common carrier, they have none of the obligations, such as the obligation to treat all content equally.

Again, taking that as true for the sake of argument, its not an ambiguity, but a crystal clear status.

Its a conflict with the false dichotomy of the idea that the only two roles in information dissemination are fully-liable non-neutral publisher and fully-immunized neutral common carrier. That model isn't true offline, and it's not true online.

[0] Which it isn't, because while the CDA and DMCA (and others) provide some limited/conditional protection, they are not a total bar to liability; but the still the status is not ambiguous, merely distinct.

You are comparing a postal service (1:1) with a broadcasting service (1:many). ISPs should be neutral carriers, but websites should be free to offer whatever services and terms they like. Given equal services, supply and demand should kill the ones with the most unfair ToS. The question of liability is more difficult, it might help if users had to register as real persons or companies (i.e. providing ID).

Why do you think that the distinction between 1:1 and 1:many matters?

I see no reason why 1:many platforms shouldn't have the same protections as a 1:1 platform.

Because there is no established common carrier equivalent for a 1:many content service. So we are given the false choice of categorizing content platforms as either "common carrier" or "publisher", when they are actually in their own category and deserve their own legislation.

It is in the public interest to prohibit moderation by 1:1 common carriers. It is not in the public interest to prohibit moderation by '1:many common carriers'. But by virtue of being 'simple' carriers, they should both be free from liability for the content.

Note, however, I don't think it is very good to have these companies moderating themselves, but it's better than nothing at the moment. I'd propose legislating the scope of the moderation according to standards set by some internationally recognized ethics committee (not a government decreed scope, they are likely just as biased as a company).

Alternatively, platforms could offer something like a complex filter system that allows users to implement their own moderation policies. But this would increase the burden (costs) of the provider.

Why should a for profit company be obligated to do something for you. Setup an irc or any xmpp server and knock your self out, oh you want to publish to people that find it offensive ! Too bad Ps you is not personally you more the wiser position

They should be obligated to do something for the same reason that it is illegal for a phone company to eavesdrop on your phone calls and censor certain words.

There are tons of protections, already in place, on large networks.

The USPS isn't unregulated though, mail fraud can be prosecuted.

Because they arbitrarily decide they don't like it, or because it is actually illegal?

Are there any companies out there trying to make it easy for consumers to legitimately own/host all their own digital content?

If the price was reasonable people would go for it, as long as setup and maintenance is transparent (that's what the company's services help you achieve).

If the networks were federated .. like e.g. Mastodon ...

How would such a company avoid having the choice of not selling to people they don't want to be associated with.

And then we come to hosting which is a gray zone in most retail contracts actually offering usable upload mostly because of bandwidth concerns and do we really trust the likes of Comcast not to play dirty when put under external pressure in regards to unpopular speech.

I think we've gone well past the equilibrium point between ease of use and computer literacy, to the point that we are now disempowering users rather than helping them. If someone record a video on their phone and want to share it we know it's just a file on a disk, but most users don't, to them it's just a video that appears in a list in an app. We know a file can be copied, modified, shared, etc, but all they can do is what the share button on the phone's UI allows them to do, like upload to youtube. Even if they had a youtube clone owned by themselves or a friend they wouldn't know how to upload it.

I saw it with my mother going through photos she took on her digital camera, she's a slave to the software that came with the camera and the features it provides. She doesn't access the file, she goes through a UI to view the images and manipulate them. If she wants to post them to facebook she does that through the UI. When the camera dies and is replaced she has to relearn a different software package whereas if she'd managed her files through explorer like we probably do then the knowledge would be transferable.

Unless we start teaching computer fundamentals better and expect people to apply that knowledge to do things then we are sliding head first into the world of digital serfdom.

Teaching fundamentals won't change much if the software with the good features is never developed. The app business model is hard on things that are for pro users, and this group is shrinking because it is too much trouble to do things right.

Power users are being wrestled to the floor by locking bootloaders, not releasing source code and banning apps from the popular web stores. Eventually, they get fed up and just join the normal consumers using 3rd party web-apps with biased features.

Indeed, this!

It's true that the process of setting up and managing websites can be daunting. Even using shared hosting, let alone on a VPS. And then there's the additional complexity of HTTPS, which is now pretty much the norm (even when not really needed, with no account creation or payment processing).

Using Micah Lee's OnionShare, one can easily create Tor onion sites.[0] They can be transient (for file-sharing) or persistent. It's based on his txtorcon library,[1] specifically TCPHiddenServiceEndpoint.[2]

That still might be a little intimidating, but hey.

0) https://onionshare.org/

1) https://github.com/meejah/txtorcon

2) https://txtorcon.readthedocs.io/en/latest/txtorcon-endpoints...

I don't believe OnionShare uses txtorcon at all, actually. And I wrote txtorcon, not Micah ;) but they're both decent options for publishing depending on your use-cases.

people arguing (out of principal or to push their views) for some kind of freedom to publish on a for profit company's site are simply seeking that company's audience to spread their message

Sure... Since it is virtually impossible (for normal folks) to publish any other way.

True. It's amazingly hard to get attention, otherwise.

Maybe something like a RPi, made to just be a web server. Something pretty dumb. Also, possibly legislation that forces ISPs to let residential customers use their outbound bandwidth the way they want, within the bounds of the law?

I dunno...

Sure, Pi are great. And if you setup a Tor onion service, the ISP can't block access. Unless they block Tor, of course.

And people don't even need Tor to access it. When high security isn't necessary, it's fine to publish Tor2web links, such as https://m_facebookcorewwwi.onion.link/

Yes, I've posted about this a few times - but it is too big of a project and not novel enough to get many skilled engineers interested, I think: We need a Zoho-like replacement for Google Apps that is open source, and has a host-agnostic ecosystem around it. Someone should be able to launch the apps in their own docker containers, with a button click on AWS, and evolve features like protonail et al. Not all of Google's apps need replacing, but it should include custom DNS, calendars, collaborative editing of documents, email, browser-syncing, storage, and possibly even a mobile data management and decentralized chat! Who wants to start building a team to work on it? :)

Have a look at https://sandstorm.io/

Seems kind if close to my description... Need to try it out. Wonder why I never hear of people using this; maybe my ignorance.

Along with proactively making my wishes concerning life support known to my family, I have made certain that they understand that a close friend is to be responsible for dealing with my data. He is capable of purging private data and filtering it down to family photos and the like. He knows to physically destroy all storage devices after processing the data and my family knows that he has accepted this responsibility.

I make sure to mention this to all concerned parties every couple of years so that everyone is clear on the matter. This doesn't include online services (email, etc), but it's enough for me.

So what do you think of LBRY:


"LBRY is a free, open, and community-run digital marketplace.

You own your data. You control the network. Indeed, you are the network.

Hollywood films, college lessons, amazing streamers and more are on the first media network ruled by you."

> They can do it, but I don't have to like it.

While correct currently, that isn't going to continue much longer. These abusive tech giants are about to start getting regulated left and right. You can practically hear the political machine awakening. Google's ability to freely control what is or isn't allowed on their platforms, will be replaced by government determined rules. That process has already started, it's a constant discussion in DC now on both sides of the political aisle. The Democrats and Republicans are both increasingly interested in regulating Google, Amazon, Facebook, etc. Within the next few years they'll also pass laws governing tighter advertising rules for the platforms (or all sites in general); which is what the Russia-Facebook headline propaganda is all about delivering.

There's no scenario where these companies make it another five years without government regulators beginning the process of restraining their behavior.

Ten years ago I would have been upset about the government proceeding toward regulation of companies like Google. Now I can't help but think no other company deserves it more, given the increasing abuse of monopoly power that Google is guilty of. Their hubris has become extreme. They better double down on their buying of politicians in DC, I mean, lobbying.

Regulation of what these companies can't do with content will only guarantee that they'll leave your jurisdiction.

Decentralized hosting is the only plausible solution.

The bigger problem is that Google use a sledgehammer to crack a nut. Instead of removing the videos, Google will shut down your whole google account - emails, google drive, docs, all gone - They'll do it without telling you, without recourse, no appeal, nothing. No chance of contacting a real person to discuss it.

It's so odd that the left who are so up in arms about 'fascism', white supremacists, trump etc, are the very people being violent, suppressing free speech, and behaving like fascists. It's especially a shame to see it so prevalent in Hollywood and Silicon Valley which should be bastions of freedom and expression.

> trump etc

> Hollywood and Silicon Valley which should be bastions of freedom and expression.

It's funny you mention this: anyone who supported "not Her" during the election was silenced and ridiculed at every turn.

> Maybe the solution is enabling people to realistically host content themselves, on their own property, and just ensuring the ISP is nothing but a dumb pipe?

For what it's worth, this is mildly achievable, but I doubt there's much of a market for it. It's (usually) not hard to convert one's internet connection to some sort of business-class connection, get a static ip, and have port 80/443 unblocked, (I've done it). Mind you, there's costs associated with all that.

Then you have to setup and maintain a web server. Plenty of HN folks can do that on their distro of choice, but it's definitely a technical feat. I bet folks have tried to make a one-click install style thing before. I bet one even exists today, but I couldn't tell you what it is.

Then there's maintenance on said server...

Ultimately, people use 3rd parties because its a significantly lower barrier to entry in monetary cost, time, and complexity.

I won't speak to Google's actions here, but no one has yet proven out your proposed solution. I'd love it if we could.

Check out ZeroNet: https://zeronet.io

Decentralized websites that are hosted by your users. Can be accessed over ZeroNet or without using a proxy.

There are things like Yunohost and, I think, sandstorm.io

xoogler here.

I would definitely subscribe to occam's razor here. Rather than explicit censorship, this is probably something that just got snagged in the net of Google's semi-automated content moderation process, which is probably overzealous in combating #extremism. Having no human channel to contact doesn't help either.

At this point, I'm no longer comfortable giving them the benefit of doubt. They burned that bridge. If this is a problem with aggressive filtering, they have had ample opportunity to note the problem and provide a solution that applies to all.

I really can't trust that they are benevolent or incompetent.

Does it matter all that much if they are incompetent or if they are maliciously censoring?

I'm actually not sure what is worse.

Indiscriminately punishing a small number of people for legitimate speech is at least as chilling as going after specific viewpoints -- any speech can get you banned, apparently.

An organization has developed a semi-automatic process that is consistently flagging documented evidence of various nations committing crimes. Human employees of that organization, when looking at the flagged documented evidence, are consistently deleting it. Assuming these humans are competently doing their job, they're following processes that were authored by the same entities responsible for (which is not the same as the implementers of) the machine processes.

edit: /implemented by/the implementers of

That would be fine if they didn't insist that the automation simply flagged it so humans could review it for the final decision.

Eh, human review isn't all that and a bag of chips. Firstly you have the subjective problems in human review, that different humans will find different things egregious. Secondly you still have the context problems: would the humans have been more likely to review the videos in the context of a reporter reporting on evidence presented in a court trial?

Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly from the standpoint of anyone building a system to moderate content, you have the human toll: most of the content the humans are reviewing is going to be highly objectionable to most humans, by definition. Expecting humans to review this content day in, day out and not have it take a psychological toll is not realistic; you can find interviews with people who have done this work for various companies, and the tales of their burnout.

(This is not meant to defend Google or condone what the reporter is going through, etc, just to point out that "make humans review everything" is not a slam-dunk answer.)

That appears to be what happened in this case.

> I appealed both decisions. Those appeals were apparently rejected, (at least that is what I gathered.because the videos were removed). That the community strikes stood (despite my appeals) was not explicitly clear during the process.

Is the appeal process automated? If there is no way to circumvent an automated process then it has to work 100% correctly, 99% is simply not acceptable.

Almost all people will appeal, it's quite easy. This brings us to the volume of appeals. Google has never liked to support this type of grunt work.

I'm not sure you're understanding that the author isn't complaining that Google is deleting content based on a free speech issue but the fact that they're misunderstanding it as terrorist propaganda when it's simply evidence from a court case of her research into whether it was a fair trial or not... The author is not complaining about free speech, she's complaining about Google's overly-broad definition of propaganda which is leading to the deletion of her account. It doesn't apply here because the author is not promoting propaganda, she is simply presenting evidence of research in a potentially unfair court case.

> That said, if anyone can think of something that I can do to help, I'm all ears.

You already live in this world.

Who cares if Goolge won't host these videos on youtube? I don't understand why this matters. There are millions of other video upload sites, all of which are extremely easy to find and use. There are literally too many open source options for sharing files to count, and many of them are even usable by non-technical folk. Millions of people shared videos online for at least a good decade before youtube became popular.

Maintain a local copy of everything you put on the cloud.

You seriously see no material difference in having your video on the YouTube vs on randomvideowebsite.com? It's not merely a question of finding a host to upload your file.

Not to mention the trouble when nobody will allow you to host your legal content because they disagree with the message. Hell, even registrars are refusing to point to an IP address.

I know... We all hate Nazis. I get it. I don't like them and, being not white, they definitely don't like me. But, they are the current good example of what happens when the controllers decide you can no longer share your legal content.

I don't know what the solution is, but I want a world where even the deplorable are able to express their thoughts and feelings. I want a world where we aren't cowards and trying to force conformity. I want a world where even the worst of us can express themselves, using the same tools as others, so long as it is legal content.

Yes, speech must have restrictions. However, we already know what those restrictions are. I guess I'm just a hopeless idealist.

It wasn't too long ago that we had the McCarthy era, where speech professing communism was effectively targeted by what were basically thought police.

Just as then you don't have to advocate free speech because you are a communist, now you don't have to advocate it because you are a Nazi. You advocate it to protect against authoritarianism.

That's why I do it. I hold what is now considered an extreme view on free speech. I don't even have anything politically incorrect to say, really. I just strongly believe in the freedom to express ideas.

A survey of young people really disturbs me. Some 40% don't believe we should have the right to free speech. I'll be damned if I know how to fix this. I see the same sentiments expressed by some people here.

Credible threats, slander, and libel are already illegal - as are a few others, such as divulging classified information. Speech needs all the protection it can get and, unfortunately, that means defending speech I don't particularly care for and people who would legitimately harm me if given the chance.

Speech we agree with doesn't need protection, nobody wants to silence it. However, that's subject to change based on the whims of society and the government. I guess I've become an extremist, even though I'm pretty sure I haven't changed. I just love free speech.

Yep, younger generations are being brain washed, unfortunately, to believe in an un-American authoritarian view on speech.

I agree with you. If you dont believe in free speech for those you disagree with, then you don't believe in free speech at all.

I literally defend literal Nazis. The Nazis hate me but they actually seem slightly less hyperbolic than those who dislike that I defend their basic human rights.

The White Nationalists tell me they'd kick me out of the country, which is funny because I'm mostly Native American. The others (I don't have a name for them) tell me that I don't even have a right to support their right to free expression. I'd rather be told that I'm hated then be told I have no right to speak.

Really, I think we can pretty much all agree that the Internet is largely a basic human right. With that, so shouldn't other protections apply. I think it's probably going to take regulation to get beyond this. I'm kind of hoping it's sensible regulation but it seems destined to happen eventually.

> A survey of young people really disturbs me. Some 40% don't believe we should have the right to free speech.

Do you have a link to this?

I appreciate your argument and the "when they came for me" quote. As an intellectual argument doesn't the government also exist to protect people, this is mostly about where the line is drawn between protecting society from some of its harmful members and protecting society from the government. Hard line to draw

What I would say is that while gov has a role to protect people's physical safety, what else do you believe is a legitimate role in protecting people from? Is it government's responsibility to care for your emotions? Do you think gov should cover our ears from mean words? Burn books that say things that you disagree with? Who decides what is disagreeable? Me? You? Trump? Eric Schmidt?

In a way, speech is already a very effective democratic institution. The more decentralized and the more participants, the more democratic. But if this voice is transferred from the people to the gov, the more power is handed from the people to the elites, and most likely the faster we will devolve into authoritarianism.

There are cults, groups and generally evil people who gain memeber ship thru words - brain washing - those groups then cause physical harm, waiting for the harm to happen doesn't sound like protecting society

While I appreciate your view I don't know where you live or who you are and I bet there is a group of people out there that hates you, and you would have a different view on freedom to publish the on google / Facebook when they target you

To your first paragraph: Take another issue, like marijuana or alcohol prohibition. I don't have to personally be into those to say that it's not a legitimate role of government to tell me whether I can use them. Also here, you can find that some will die every year because of them, and make the same argument you made: that government should jump ahead and not allow it. If they dont, then they aren't protecting society, so your argument goes.

Unfortunately here it's clear that life is far from perfect, but the moral question to ask is how can we make the best of it for all people? Should we ban everything because a few die: cars, sugar--what about swimming pools? Back flips? You see, I don't think this argument you made logically leads us to a very good world. Government can't protect us from everything. At some point we have to rely on faith in humanity. Not to mention with every power handed over from the people is given into the hands of government's propensity for corruption...

So while I don't approve of every group that will use free speech same as I dont use marijuana or have a swimming pool, but I don't think it's a legitimate role of government to regulate any of that.

In other words, I think more people will suffer w/o free speech than w/ it, but no solution will be perfect.

Ok, however your second paragrapah is really concerning me.

> I want a world where even the deplorable are able to express their thoughts and feelings.

Yes, but we (speaking as a person, not a representative of any company) don't have to supply them with a platform to spread their hate and we don't have to sit idly by while they do it.

> Yes, speech must have restrictions. However, we already know what those restrictions are

Do we? What are they?

You and parent seem to have missed my point.

I'm not defending google. I'm pointing out that using google is a choice, a choice with lots of alternatives.

Google's choice not to host certain things is itself a speech act. Don't try to police Google's speech. Instead, make sure there are plenty of alternatives to Google for the people who Google doesn't want to host.

If there's no alternative to google, then google's policing becomes a problem. THAT is why it's important that governments not censor speech -- you don't have alternative choices for government. And THAT is why privately owned censor-happy monopolies of the press are just as huge a threat to free speech as governments.

But -- and this is my point -- there are a near infinite number of alternatives to google. Google does not have a monopoly of the press.

If someone believes they can't speak freely because youtube won't host your videos, then that incorrect belief is a huge problem. A much larger problem than youtube choosing not to host their videos.

1. No, I don't see that huge of a difference. I really don't think that youtube has nearly as much influence over what the vast majority of people see as you seem to think it does.

2. Regardless, the solution is to become less dependent on corporate-owned ad-distribution networks for finding information. And help others do the same.

Modifying corporate behavior to match your preferences will never be a sufficient replacement for an informed, inquisitive, and self-sufficient populace. So focus on solving the latter problem instead of complaining about the first.

I think some people are reading my comments as a defense of Google. But I'm not defending google. I'm pointing out that the tools you need to get out from under Google already exist and are available today, as long as you want to speak (as opposed to e.g. make money from advertising).

If you use google services, you're making a choice. A choice with lots of alternatives. Telling people otherwise does google a huge favor.

If people dislike Google that much, they should set their own websites, there are plenty of video hosting service out there that doesn't have as tight a control as Youtube has.

The only reason that you want to post on Youtube, other than any other sites is that you want to make make money out of it.

Wait until you lose your gmail that you've used for everything for the last 10 years as a collateral damage.

You can't really maintain a local copy of a "control of @gmail.com" domain to be able for people to continue sending you messages.

For me it'd be max 7 days. And probably 99.999% spam.

What I said about video sites applies equally well to email. You don't even have to host your own; just choose a provider you trust. (If you disabuse yourself of the attitude that you shouldn't have to pay for email, there are more decent options than I could possibly hope to count.)

The "dependence" on Google for hosting videos and email accounts is entirely self-imposed. Honestly, if you want to fight Google's "monopoly", the only effective way is to point out the obvious fact that there are perfectly good alternatives.

This is why I have my own domain. I saw my use of my @gmail address as an issue a decade ago.

You should be hosting your own if you're serious about email.

Agreed, I suppose, but there are two further problems.

First, gmail then tends to screw you on deliverability for using an unknown source - and since everyone else uses gmail, you're still at Google's mercy when trying to communicate.

And second... that's our solution? Anyone who isn't capable of hosting their own email doesn't get to trust their access to their records? At a certain point we need to acknowledge that the company-centric structure is going to define tech for 98% of people, and that this will affect even the 2% who can step outside those bounds.

What else, government provided email hosting?

Nah, if I'm skeptical of Google's ethics I'm vastly more skeptical of that. Easy decentralization or quality data guarantees, preferably.

I'd feel better about Google if they offered a hard guarantee that any takedown would be done with notice to allow file recovery, and offered an easy, useful "export all my crap" feature for all users, takedown or not. (I'm aware that the recovery window is probably illegal at the moment.) I'd also like things better if they shelled out on some actual human reviewers and offered real support when they screw up.

What I actually want in the long run is for someone to offer decentralized, private hosting, or else build a tool to make self-hosting comparably easy to getting other email. As a stopgap, encrypted hosting would stop this sort of intrusion, but again hits legal takedown issues. "Click some buttons, pay $30, get privately-hosted email with no overseer" is my ideal endgame here.

To play devils advocate - are you ok with YouTube brings discovery and hosting platform for extreme Islam propaganda, or neo nazi/far right? Or what about less extreme content deliberately designed to mislead and draw attention to an issue (see the constant barrage of lies published in tabloid newspapers directed at certain hot topics, ranging from slightly misleading to downright lies).

I also don't see what the ISO has to do with it in this case, the authors gripe is with YouTube. Regardless of their ISP, this could have happened with YouTube.

If you want to share politically sensitive content, I think it's fair to say that YouTube isn't your friend.

Regarding solutions, there are plenty of solutions for sharing video that will never result in content being taken down. thesr methods don't offer the same visibility or discovery that YouTube does, which is why they're not as popular.

If you want to provide a censorship free place to host content, you better be prepared to fight a very difficult fight. Where do you stand on copyrighted content, on illegal material (some of which may be legal in some countries but not others), distasteful or offensive material?

There are already certain laws that prohibit certain content.

But this is not the issue in this case; neither are ISIS propaganda videos.

This here is corporate and state-controlled censorship that has no legal basis at all whatsoever aimed at controlling research. That is MUCH worse than propaganda by others.

> Where do you stand on copyrighted content, on illegal > material (some of which may be legal in some countries > but not others), distasteful or offensive material?

Again - how does your comment relate to censoring research or information that the US government arbitrarily considers "illegal"?

> If you want to share politically sensitive content, > I think it's fair to say that YouTube isn't your friend.

Google runs Youtube. So, Google is not your friend. I agree with this.

A company isn't a public service , they also want to create an environment for their users that maximizes their engagement and therefore the company's profit

Your comment has been deemed as recommending fascism by an automated algorithm. /s (which is so complex even Google doesn't know how it works)

There isn't anything in this world that is not political. Everything is to a varying degree.

Technical documentation. Recipes. How-to pages. Some games. Some books.

Not everything is, should be, or needs to be political.

Anything involving people is political. I'm not sure it can be avoided. And even if it's somehow not political today it's not future-proof. For example, a recipe could call for an ingredient that's considered unethical.

Besides being an issue of freedom of expression, couldn't this be construed as a form of damage?

I mean, part of a journalist's trade is to reach out as many people as they possibly can. Taking stuff down goes in the opposite direction to that.

If you choose to build your house on an abandoned indian graveyard, should you complain when you get haunted? It doesn't matter if your house has incredible value to society; old Running Bear doesn't care.

Google has every right, legally, to delete this stuff. However, in an ideal world, they'd do no such thing...the continued aggressive censorship by Google, while their legal right, leaves a bad taste in my mouth. They can do it, but I don't have to like it.

One does not get to "Organize the World's Information" and do so without exemplary intellectual honesty and regard to morality.

In any ideal world yes. In real world fiefdoms exist.

> Maybe the solution is distributed content and P2P networks?

Zero Net does that: https://zeronet.io/

A surprising relatively recent project that is much more usable than Tor onions or Freenet project. All content is hosted in a P2P fashion, you seed all the contents you have visited. If enough people visit your content, you won't need to host it.

I just wanted to say that I agree with everything you've written in this thread, and I share the same concerns about freedom and the Internet. I'm also an idealist. I recommend everyone with interest learn as much as they can about crypto and distributed systems. It's not a panacea. It's hard. Mathematics and the law appear to be roughly evenly matched, at least in the short term. At the least, it seems to me that crypto/p2p don't stand a chance without at least some support from the law. I think there is a great need for more effort towards user-friendly p2p software. There are a lot of people working on it, but in general they aren't backed by tons of capital. I suppose thats the ideal buried at the heart of the ICO mania. I wonder where all this will end up in another 20 years.

I am a mathematician, I wasn't kidding when I asked what I could do to help. I can program but you really don't want me to do that.

So, I write. I write these comments, I promote these ideals. They were pretty common ideals, not that long ago. I try to explain why and see if I can understand the responses.

I'm kinda happy with the way this thread has turned out. I've done this before. This one has seen lots of support and has some great ideas and thoughts. It's much easier when the subject is not a Nazi, but the principles are exactly the same.

"Maybe the solution is enabling people to realistically host content themselves."

I used to blog about politics, policy (election integrity). Even scored some minor policy victories.

Like with indie bands, the challenge is having access to an audience, rising about the noise, finding your tribe (and them finding you). Posting on someone else's site sucks. Groveling, genuflecting to get some consideration (front page!). No different than the gatekeeping role newspapers played.

I strongly support going the solo route. But it's a lot of work. Maybe even 80%. And I sucked at it. And the self-promotion efforts takes time away from all the other activities (research, FOIA requests, writing, speaking, lobbying).

Saving democracy doesn't pay very well. I marvel, applaud the indie bands, err, solo bloggers that somehow keep it up for years, decades.

The problem isn't that the video was deleted. The problem is that they decided to delete the entire account which contains data that is unrelated to the video.

> just ensuring the ISP is nothing but a dumb pipe

Trump's FTC largely disagree with you


You read my post and THAT is what you took from it? Oh, wow... I'm not even remotely defending censorship, I think it's horrible. That doesn't mean they don't have a right to do so. It does mean I don't think they should.

You might want to read my whole post, maybe the whole thread.

They should stop having that right, in my humble opinion.

We regulate companies, trying to prevent them from doing things that we deem harmful to people or the society as a whole.

I've seen a ton of people on here (not you; in general) argue that e.g. that Christian homophobe baker has to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple, or that the Hobby Lobby company has to provide access to contraceptives under ACA. So why can't we have legislation and regulations to force "social" networks (of a certain size, maybe) to host content that their operators don't like but is still lawful and legal?

If you take away their right to decide what to host, they'll just take away their servers from your jurisdiction.

Or they'll always limit their userbase to be below the regulated size. If we're lucky they might opt for federation like email, so that it doesn't break up the ability to reach others easily on other servers.

Decentralized hosting is the best solution.

The existing right to refuse service is currently only limited by very few laws, like discrimination law and some utility regulations. Taking away the right to refuse service will not work well at all

I agree. I only say they have that right because they do, currently, have that right. I also make it a point to stress that I only suggest this for lawful content. Nobody should have to host illegal things.

I'm not sure what the solution is, but this situation is not acceptable to me.

> Maybe the solution is distributed content and P2P networks?

So... ZeroNet? https://zeronet.io

Freenet? https://freenetproject.org/pages/about.html

Nah, I'm all for google doing this. Youtube is absolutely NOT the place to host these videos, as makes it very hard if not impossible to ferret out all the highly destructive hate speech that's occurring..

Obviously, there should be a place, similar in price and ease as YouTube to where she can host such things, but YouTube is not the place. Ideally the new system will be set up to weed through what makes sense and what doesn't.

I'm not sure this is the time or place, but what is it that you're calling hate speech and how is it 'highly destructive?'

What prevents the user from selecting a different video and who is the arbiter of 'what makes sense and what doesn't?'

I suppose those can be rhetorical questions, if you want. To be clear, I suspect I hold very extreme views on the concept of free speech, at least from your perspective. Lest you read too much into that, the speech I'm defending sometimes comes from people who would harm me simply by virtue of my not being white.

In this case, the lady is a journalist. Her reporting included extremist videos. You're saying YouTube is not the place to share investigative journalism because it's highly destructive hate speech.

Do you think that she should be able to post this content because she's a white westerner that you like, while brown Muslims you don't like who posted the same material should not?

Youtube has rules about the content they are willing to host and she knowingly violated those rules. Who she is any why she did it shouldn't come into it.

> Youtube has rules about the content they are willing to host and she knowingly violated those rules. Who she is any why she did it shouldn't come into it.

No, it shouldn't matter who she is. It matters that the rules are Wrong.

Her race is immaterial. I'm not sure why you believe I'd care. If you read the thread, you'd know I'm not white.

And no, I'm very much okay with the Muslim posts. In fact, I've watched many of them. The ISIS recruitment videos are well made and have pretty catchy songs.

Help me understand-

Alexa O'Brien has a Youtube account with many hours of video.

She also has a google account, drive, etc.

Some of her videos contained material that Google (being Google), didn't like.

Despite the fact that it was all very important journalism, Google arbitrarily decided it was #extremism, therefore #banned.

I would say that 5 years ago I would have been shocked and outraged, but lately I just absolutely am not surprised by Google anymore.

I hope Alexa kept local copies but I'm imagining maybe she didn't. At the very least she is losing all of the views and PR associated with her channel.

If you do have local copies, please try to publish elsewhere!

Google is on a crusade to demonitize any video it doesn't like, so it can keep dwindling ad money flowing to only the people it chooses.

Good luck, how can we help??

This happens. It's not good that it happens but we must expect it to happen.

What power to we have?

Change our perspective.

These online services which area now beginning to dip their toes into censorship / advertiser-hedged editorializing, are not to be seen as reliable ubiquitous platforms existing for the convenience of all. As much as they perhaps want to be seen as such, their actions belie this.

They are closed niches with particular stances, and their loyalty is never to us, despite marketing.

And we can treat them as such, we will be okay.

Backup your things. Use multiple providers. Use multiple accounts, a burner account for content against their editorial stance, and a longer lived account for other things. Run your own services. If you despise this state of affairs so greatly, form your own business services, and ape to take some of their market.

Tl;dr they are not our friends. Stop expecting them to not betray us, expect betrayal, and keep them at an appropriate distance.

Don't complain. Just start doing it if you want to protect yourself against it. I think github and npm can be included in this.

I am a big fan of run your own services. But when I do the maths, the cost is uneconomical for the average user. And the complexity already too high even for my own taste. Like configuring a mail server is hard.

Well, it's a trade-off between comfort and privacy. You should self-host what you are capable of and deem of higest importance / privacy.

To upgrade from gmail, you don't even to jump directly to self-hosting. There are pay-to-use email-providers, who treat you like the customer, not the product. Similar services exist for video, etc.

Perhaps an alternative to running your own services is using paid services where you are the company's source of income. And diversify the services you use among different providers (i.e. don't use Google-everything.)

That's not the question. The question is : is your content sensitive/important/unique/are-you-paranoid-enough that it's worth the price/time/learn ? There are alternatives afaik, that one cba to use them is not the problem. Companies do money out of our own laziness, they're not entitled to anything. I have a hard time understanding what all this fuss is about.

This is one part of why I dont think people should use the new Drive File Stream over the backup and sync (Google Drive legacy app) client.

Actually, speaking of that,the new backup and sync automatically uploads photos and backs up USB drives -> what if some of the automatic content it uploads violates their TOS (e.g. an investigative journalists photos from a war zone)

> Google arbitrarily decided it was #extremism, therefore #banned

It is extremism. What makes a difference is the people's intention of uploading it. But it is not clearly to me, whether it makes a difference or not, if that video's targeting audience see this video and use it as an inspiration to commit terrorism.

> Google is on a crusade to demonitize any video it doesn't like

I am going to be a devil's advocate, make money out of a platform is not freedom of speech, or freedom of expression. That is why I cringed every time when some Youtuber acts like cry baby that certain video is demonetize crying no freedom of speech while that video is not blocked and had a million views.

when you cannot control the message through politics and laws you get ask your friends in important industries to step in for you. if not that then you have the very rich and powerful deciding what they think is good for society and abusing their position to make it so.

it all depends on how much freedom you can stand, me, I want everyone to have freedom to express their views regardless how abhorrent I find them (not saying anything about the person in the article) and no politician or large business should have the ability to stop it. if anything we have a safer society because people have an outlet and also the more dangerous self identify.

Do you think Google should have the authority to decide who is a journalist and who isn't? What criteria should they apply to determine that? Other than just reading the description alongside a video and just uncritically believing what the poster wrote, how should they determine the reasons and motivation for posting a video?

What this argument comes down to is "How dare Google pull this video posted by a nice white woman who clearly should be allowed to post it, can't they see she isn't one of those nasty brown people who clearly shouldn't?"

Hmm, interesting. Personally I think everyone should be allowed to post it, regardless of proclaimed profession.

However, what I think Google is attempting to do here, is prevent "ISIS beheads infidels, join now, link in description".

Obviously they are failing miserably at that, and there might even be something sinister going on.

But, that is how I would distinguish between journalist and devout terrorist.


>Google doesn't have to host it if they don't want to.

Completely agree (free market), however were it my website, I would make an effort to distinguish between journalism/commentary and actual propoganda.

>They want to be vaguely family-safe.

I agree they are trying, but look at Pewdiepie's video regarding Elsa/Disney videos where the actors were pissing on each other.

These videos were NOT demonitized, and were marked family friendly. Why would Youtube permit and promote this content, but ban others?

>anyone can upload and monetize

In the past this was absolutely true. Now videos are being demonetized and DMCAd and censored left right and center. Not even really hyperbole.

My opinion is that Youtube is hooking up the studios and corporate interests on the site with each passing day.

Every indie creator that is making the really cutting edge content that is merely vaguely inflammatory is being pinched hard, while the corporate studios are getting a pass.

Thank you for your comments :)

In a lot of ways this kind of stuff is what we were warned about by many including the FSF. Cloud software you don't control, or which knows a lot about you, can be used to censor you.

Always better to self-host and backup/distribute via the cloud as a secondary method. Easier said than done though.

Yeah, lots of people saw this coming light-years away.

People really should stop ignoring the TOS.

If I read every ToS I had to agree to, I'd have no free time. Much better to just click agree and hope contracts for my soul are legally unenforceable.

Society really should stop tolerating this type of TOS.

Society prefers cheap and available solutions. It so happens that this one comes with draconian ToS everyone ignores. (And via bandwagon so does all the credible competition.)

The only way to deal with this is right regulation to make such terms illegal or forcibly breaking up such monopolies.

Or running a cheap or free equivalent service by a big carrier, but government whatever is being ignored as a solution and nobody else has the clout to challenge Alphabet.

Self hosting will always be the more reliable solution in cases like this

Even then they just take your domain name away from you. You are always reliant on big corporations for your Internet connection, be it hosting provider, domain name registrar, search engine, or Internet service provider

Namecoin, Tor / I2P, CJDNS, whatever. It's still possible to be reached as long as you have internet connectivity.

> Easier said than done though.

Not by much, once you understand the consequences.

I don't see how the consequences make it any easier to do or harder to say - hosting your own content is not only incredibly difficult to do in a secure manner, it's damn expensive. Economies of scale will always make it easier for there to be a few large content hosts as opposed to smaller, federated hosting done on the individual level (well, until better P2P methods are adopted but even then, we're talking massive amounts of storage space)

Google seems to be doing a very fine job of showing that it is has reached monopoly status for way too many verticals. They're getting way comfortable in their success, and this is exemplified in the certain level of hubris they exemplify in their practices. Google Jigsaw is one such example. I really do hope the DOJ gets serious about the anti-trust implications and takes them to task at some point. I think we're in need of another Bell Systems-esque anti-trust breakup.

They don't like your vids, the delete your EMAIL account?????!!!!!

As always, the best way to get a big company to help you is to make it a public relations problem.


This person asks that she "demands answers."

Since when are beggars choosers? Google is free. Did we really expect a different behavior from them?

Free in the most obvious sense, but they still profit off of you.

When I checked a few years ago, Youtube was still not actually profitable. There's a reason it's owned by the company that spins off so much free cash it doesn't know what to do with it all, I guess.

Google's parent company, Alphabet is hugely profitable.

Google is beholden to advertisers. You are not a customer, even when you are one, you are still the product delivered to them. Using their services is a choice but I've opted out of everything but search, and I'd like to get off of that too.

Boggles my mind how people keep thinking Google is this benevolent entity hovering over us. It's a company, with balance sheets. Nothing more.

Time to move that data (or at least a copy of it) elsewhere.

>I hope for good. But, I honestly don't know.

I love how Google handles their customers. They just block/remove without any warning, don't respond when asked and reinstate if they have to without any apology or explanation.

ha ha. you said "customers".

I was a paying customer of theirs for a few years, using GDrive to back up my photos. I suspect many HN users are also Google customers. It is definitely a distinction worth making.

Someone's gotta do something about Google. While they can't be responsible for someone putting all their eggs in the same basket, their terrible customer support policies can really ruin someone's work beyond repair.

The biggest problem with Google isn't that they can delete YouTube videos or your Google+ account, it's that they can virtually erase you from the web through their search domination.

Serious question: what are some examples of great content virtually erased from the web by search engines?

Great and obscure content --- that you'd most want a search engine to find, tends to be at most risk. For one example, I've noticed that finding information on obscure electronics part numbers has gotten much harder, and the search results are getting "diluted" with useless "fillter" results that don't even contain all the words you're searching for.

Example queries I've had poor luck with recently:

    TVN_DELETEITEM recursive (count how many first-page results contain TVN_DELETEITEM)
    ITU T.800 (count how many are about T.800 and not E.800 or P.800 or X.800 or...)

I've been annoyed at this for a while too, but I've noticed that if you put your search terms in quotes, that almost always fixes it. I have yet to see any existing search results disappear without the website they link to also disappearing. If only Google indexed the web archive...

Are you using the Verbatim search mode under Search tools, which replaces "All Results"? Makes a huge difference in getting rid of those suggestions etc.

If you want exact word matches only, you need to use quotes:

    "TVN_DELETEITEM" "recursive"
    "ITU" "T.800"

Google still treats most punctuation as spaces within phrase searches. For example, the latter search would match a sentence/clause transition like "ITU-T: 800 items". There are enough results actually mentioning T.800 that you probably won't see that, but if it's a genuinely rare phrase you can end up with multiple pages completely full of useless results. For example, there was an article posted to HN a while back in which an interviewee mentioned "race liberals" as a political alignment. When I tried searching for this phrase, Google almost exclusively matched "race, liberals" and "race. Liberals".

Why don't you Google them?

Edit: So someone missed the joke. If the Google removed an article, you couldn't Google it.

Anyway, I finally found something after searching a bit.


the most disturbing part of the experience was what came next: Somehow, very quickly, search results stopped showing the original story at all. As I recall it—and although it has been six years, this episode was seared into my memory—a cached version remained shortly after the post was unpublished, but it was soon scrubbed from Google search results.

I mean technically yes, but that is pretty much fear mongering. That is like fearing the government because they could delete your social security number. Neither would ever do it, despite it being possible. The ramifications would be absurd.

There was an article on here where the author said Google pushed a critical article they wrote down to the bottom of the charts.

Found it.


the most disturbing part of the experience was what came next: Somehow, very quickly, search results stopped showing the original story at all. As I recall it—and although it has been six years, this episode was seared into my memory—a cached version remained shortly after the post was unpublished, but it was soon scrubbed from Google search results.

If the government did that I could sue them and win.

If Google started censoring certain political ideas or certain people, there is zero recourse. There are zero ramifications, unless I am already someone important and powerful.

A whole lot of our lives is controlled by unaccountable, powerful entities that could legally ruin your life because it is their platform. But apparently nobody cares about that because "freedom of speech doesn't mean freedom from consequences".

That someone can be you! www.videohostingwithaheart.com is available...

Google's remediation systems are terrible. If you can't convince their algorithm you're a good person, you're out of luck.

My adwords account has been locked for 15 years despite my repeated appeals (they seem to let me appeal about once every five years).

I have no idea why it's locked and no one will tell me nor fix it.

So I have a separate adwords account which annoyingly I cannot tie to my primary gmail account because apparently at some point after it was locked they got tied together.

And you're someone with some SV credibility and savviness, imaging what it's like for a typical scrub.

The following articles may be of help:

1) https://support.google.com/accounts/answer/40695

2) https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/2802168?hl=en

Despite claims in this thread that Google likes to do things without due process and clear guidelines, the reality is that something like an account deletion is both pretty rare and not done lightly (you'll see that in some of the language in support articles and T&Cs related to this course of action). Product managers and engineers put a lot of thought into how to identify accounts that only exist to provide content that break TOS vs a case like this.

In this case, it's not clear if it's the YouTube account or the Google account that has been flagged for deletion (support articles suggest there is a distinction). Either way, support articles indicate that rationale for the action taken would have been provided to the user.

With regard the "how to escalate?" issue: The company still struggles with corner cases like this. When you're building systems that cater for billion+ users, you have to look at systematic ways to deal with incoming requests such that the set of requests that need human intervention is as small as possible (assuming you don't want a company with millions of employees). At the end of the day, it's a balancing act and I personally feel that Google's approach is sane. Unfortunately that means a small number of users do get a bad experience.

Disclaimer: I worked at Google for over a decade. I am aware of some of the process and legality decisions that go into how these type of things are structured internally. I did not work in the area of abuse or policy.

> In this case, it's not clear if it's the YouTube account or the Google account that has been flagged for deletion (support articles suggest there is a distinction). Either way, support articles indicate that rationale for the action taken would have been provided to the user.

We've heard a number of stories like this of people who have their youtube videos flagged for various reasons. The lived experience of people who go through it sounds hellish. Their entire digital life on google is suspended and held to ransom by some completely opaque, inscrutable, byzantine process that is not accountable to anyone. There is no real way to appeal, and once deleted there may or may not be any way to recover lost data or have emails sent to your old address forwarded to another account.

If your account was suspended, would you really trust that the knowledge base answers are correct? If you're wrong you'd have no account, no access to your own email address, no power, and no way of contacting anyone at google to help.

If my account was suspended by a machine and couldn't get in touch with a human to help fix it, there's no way I'd continue to trust google's automated processes to get everything figured out. Not when so much is at stake. As someone who's worked at google for over a decade if something happened to your account, you'd be fine - you'd be able to contact someone and get it fixed. But without that recourse, scared paranoia seems pretty reasonable.

> With regard the "how to escalate?" issue: The company still struggles with corner cases like this. When you're building systems that cater for billion+ users, you have to look at systematic ways to deal with incoming requests such that the set of requests that need human intervention is as small as possible (assuming you don't want a company with millions of employees).

Maybe part of the lesson here is that it's simply impossible to scale to a billion+ users.

>I worked at Google for over a decade.

Thanks for your comment.

I would like to hear from people who work from Google right now. The policies and priorities have changed. Their approaches have changed. It has changed since many people have worked there. I very much doubt anyone from youtube will speak up here, even with a throwaway.

I only left ~ 2 months ago so it probably hasn't changed that much in that time. ;)

> regard the "how to escalate?" issue: The company still struggles with corner cases like this

This is not a corner case. Being able to appeal and escalate that appeal are the only possible way to have any semblance of due process.

Does not make sense to me. I agree, that an account deletion is very rare. So you do not need millions of employees to handle this. To me, it seems, that google simply doesn't care.

New Google (after the founders retired to Alphabet) are trying to instill a simple notion: what you think is yours is actually ours, it doesn't belong to you. Post a YouTube video, expect it to be taken down. Do not embed third party YouTube videos: your website will be broken when Google takes them down. Do not develop Android apps as a small dev: they can be deleted from Play Store on a whim. Do not monetize your site with AdSense: you will lose revenue with no human recourse. Hopefully general public will get this notion sooner than later.

Dumb of them, good for us. I mean, the whole business of the cloud is based on your users/customers not realizing that...

Normally I try to rule out conspiracy theories, but this one is pretty interesting. A video being removed I could understand, but deleting an entire Google account seems like a rather extreme measure, and I wonder who is really pulling the strings here. I could certainly think of motives for doing so.

It gets worse over time as well, as their product space expands. If she had a Chromebook, Chromecast, Google Home device, Android phone, etc...it would easily make $1k+ worth of purchases worth substantially less. You would have to either sell them, or lose all setup (contacts, configuration, purchased apps, etc) and history.

> I wonder who is really pulling the strings here

With 99.9% confidence, I'm saying an algorithm. It isn't unusual for a company to automatically delete accounts that seriously breach their ToCs; the unique problem with Google is that their ecosystem is so large and pervasive.

Blame the code, don't blame the programmer!

The "algorithm" seems very much in bed with American military industry.

It is more in line with American foreign policy and their interior civil service (anti-extremism globally and pushing against the new right at home)

I met Google's chief censor years ago. That department used to be proudly pushing the boundaries of minimum compliance (censor nothing, and work with foreign governments until that's legal).

It is sad to see how far they have fallen.

This is the frog in the boiling pot.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14998429 "Youtube AI deletes war crime evidence as 'extremist material'"

My spidey sense is tingling here. With Assange's exposition of Google as an arm of the US State Department [1] and the US's ever changing alliances with various rebel groups in the middle east, including the Taliban and Al Qaeda [2] [3], it's not a stretch to believe that Google has an agenda beyond monetization in the particular content it hides.

[1] http://www.newsweek.com/assange-google-not-what-it-seems-279...

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allegations_of_CIA_assistance_...

[3] http://www.latimes.com/world/middleeast/la-fg-syrian-rebel-g...

This is Google being Google... They really need to improve their customer support processes; especially when people have so much stake in their products. Losing a Youtube account sucks, losing an entire Google account is the nail in the coffin.

Your data is not safe unless you have a local backup that you control. Don't trust Google (or any one cloud storage provider); they haven't earned it.

I'm afraid this is what happens when the exercise of democratic freedoms is cordoned within the platforms of corporations who have no duty to uphold them. Google's unilateral suspension of AdSense accounts without reason or recourse has brought this realization to lots of people on a less overt level.

I hope any Googlers here are attempting to help internally and at the very least 1) not to destroy all of her work 2) allow her to publish controversial things because of the context.

As for my opinion I think this is horrendous, that Stallman is right and that Google and it’s staff should be ashamed at this attempt to destroy deep and important journalistic work. It’s hardly like it’s not in character.

I will now attempt to not use Google services which is going to be a challenge.

Wow I get they don't want the videos on their site but banning all of the users other services seems very over the top. They're a private company they can do what they want but this is not a good way to do business.

If your Google account is suspended, then deletion of the contents after a set number of days is required by various laws and legal precidents for your own privacy. Google cannot hold your private data on an ongoing basis without letting you access it.

Your only chance will be getting the account unsuspended before the timer runs out.

> Google cannot hold your private data on an ongoing basis without letting you access it.

Has anyone mentioned this to Facebook? I think they hold quite a lot of information about me, and because I don't have an account, I presumably can't access it.

I think in the EU and USA you can request all information a company has about you. Not sure how this would work without an identifier, though. You could send all your personal information to them so they can check if they store something about but this feels icky.

I'm sad for the user, but every time I read this type of story I'm hopeful it may be an inflection point; maybe people will wake up to Google, how integrated it is in our lives, and how big of a black box it is. If nothing else, its one more brick in the wall.

Censorship doesn't serve the interests of Google nor the government.

If Google deactivates accounts then Google loses data. In big data it's best practice to keep everything, discard nothing. Government loses an opportunity for surveillance which could potentially be important. Why would we for example shut down White Supremacist accounts when doing so removes the possibility of keeping tabs on them. It makes them quieter, has a chilling effect and their activities go underground. Where's the benefit in that? By closing "bad" accounts like Right Wing white supremacy groups the public never sees their material which unless you happen to be one of them always discredits them. Censoring these unpopular groups only protects them from discrediting themselves from the larger public and we lose valuable clues or evidence in the event someone is plotting a crime or has already committed a crime.

In this particular story involving Manning, Google shutting down an account with information critical of the government makes Google and the government look bad. It does more harm to their public image than good. This material has already been available for a very long time and nothing new is learned. Why bother to censor? Neither Google nor the government stand to gain anything and only open themselves up to lose.

For all the censorship Google or the government engages in, in practice nothing of substance is ever covered up anyway.

What are some good alternative email accounts to use? I should really start decreasing my dependence on Google.

Anything, so long as your e-mail address is on a domain name you own and you back up your inbox via IMAP. If both of those are in place, you're not really dependent on your mail provider at all, because you can switch just by changing a DNS record. If you lose the use of an e-mail address on someone else's domain, then you've got a serious problem.

Exactly. IMAP is IMAP is IMAP, anything goes. Only if you crave for great web UIs then things narrow down to Fastmail/Gmail. Although, Gmail has been gone to crap, UI-wise for me. The process of writing plain-text emails has turned so cumbersome and the UI occasionally stops retrieving new mail to show. Too bad I'm still in love with Gmail labels: they act as TODO entries for me. IMAP folders won't replicate this behavior because the message can't be foldered _and_ remain in Inbox but I guess I can manage.

We have a Finnish, for-Finns-only nonprofit community that hosts email, ssh, www, you name it that I subscribed to for €40/y and I'm planning to move all of my gmail business over there. It's easy because I've had my domain for years now and it has been redirecting mail to my gmail.

And I already moved my github pages over. (Github is also having fits for wrongthinkers.)

Wait until google bans your domain. I’ve recently found out how much of the internet’s mail is hosted on gmail because of one very problematic user.

This works until a registrar revokes your domain name.

It's turtles all the way down at this point. The reality is that you can't get content on the internet without the approval of at least a few entities.

If/Until the culture changes the best practical advice is to make sure that those few entities are distanced from your message that they won't be pressured to take it down.

Well, nobody can ban a hidden website yet (.onion or .i2p).

However barrier of entry there is still a bit high and they're still vulnerable to attacks, hosts don't want anything to do with them either.


Not free; but you definitely get what you pay for.

Another happy Fastmail customer here. Push email on iOS/Mac, CalDAV and CardDAV to access calendar and contacts from anything, and I even host my little crappy website on their servers. I've never had deliverability problems and their spam filtering is (so far) sufficient.

Happy to second FastMail. Been there almost a year, and it's amazing how good their product is. Note that they just revised their TOS to get rid of the dreaded "can terminate your account at any time for any reason" common to most services, in exchange for a clear set of conditions. Aka, the CEO waking up one day and deciding to get rid of you isn't valid anymore, as it would be for most companies.

I am still happy after 15 years of paying for Fastmail.

Kolab - https://kolabnow.com/ (just go for the webmail-only lite version)

Posteo - https://posteo.de/en

Both paid but they are very cheap and don't advertise to you.

Kolab is run by the founder of the European Free Software Foundation, with all that connotates.

Posteo is a German provider, aiming to be totally green and offering at-rest and in-transit PGP encryption and a host of other security and privacy features.

You should pay for an email account. Fastmail is a good service.

At some point an "internet death penalty" will have to called for Google's behavior, should they continue down this path .

That will be very very interesting...

Right now most information dissemination seems to happen through commercial or state actors. Neither appears to be very reliable regarding neutrality and impartiality. There are also political and religious platforms that don't inspire much confidence either in that regard. Maybe academic platforms still have some independence, but those are mostly aimed towards scientific studies most so than contemporary news items.

Where would one host "news" or data that most platforms aren't eager to support for one reason or another? Where do you publish an article critical of the state in countries where the media is state-owned, or critical of corporations that sponsor the media outlets?

This bias problem might be one of the most tricky things for mankind to solve, even though it would seem it should turn out to be equally important for anybody regardless of one's position at either end of whatever spectrum.

While it was an unpopular opinion, that was what Cloudflare's Mathew Prince has been saying all along. When do you draw the line? How do you define xxxxx. I read in US, Police can take away your cash / processions if you are suspected of XXXX.I guess similar mentality is happening.

HDD is Cheap, SoC is Cheap, We are only lacking the software to have a Personal Cloud where your Photo, Video, Email, or other Files are Stored on BOTH the cloud AND your Home Mini Server. I paid a small fees to have the data on cloud for being accessible and as backup. I was rather hoping Apple could do that with Time Capsule. Since OSX Server already caches your iCloud Files. But I guess most company are too deep rooted into this recurring "Subscription" model they dont actually want you to own anything.

sorry to hear your predicament. sadly there is more of this type of thing in the pipeline and it is time to stop using google provided services

1) migrate videos to LiveLeak.com

2) migrate email services somewhere else.

i don't have a specific recommendation, perhaps some other HNer would proffer a solid choice

The kind of content required by researchers, documenting current events, relooking at historical events with current information is always going be hugely controversial according to different POVs.

This kind of content will require its own network not reliant or subject to the whims of business interests or the rules of any single nation. Infact it's essential this content is not located on platforms offered by increasingly compromised and arbitrary SV companies prone to lip service to free speech when convenient.

There is enough funding in the world to create this than rely on companies like Google and the content should simply move from youtube.

It sounds like her blog post got her noticed by Google, so that's good.

However, for cases like these, where you have videos that are probably outside of the terms & conditions of Google, you should be hosting those on your own servers that you purchase the bandwidth for, not relying on a 3rd party to host.

Yes, Google has mutiple defacto monopolies that are very, very concerning. But one can still self-host on the Internet, and this person should have done that. She has her own domain, so she could have had the video on her own server.

Put it on the internet archive.

The videos are widely available. Google isn't trying to hide the videos, they're trying to keep them off the platform.

While google should tread carefully here, I have to wonder why this stuff was hosted from a google account in the first place.

It is easier and cheaper than ever to set up your own web hosting and host this stuff outside of a walled garden where it won't violate a TOS. Google accounts are for storing personal files in the cloud, not publishing important documents to the public.

Google will delete accounts from people who's political opinion not "left", talk anything against google's "evil" ceo's..

I'm really tired of google's lies, politics, actions and ethos that they push by forcing.

Lies lies just like facebook and twitter. Same for me.

I wonder if Google users should have a scheduled backup of https://takeout.google.com/settings/takeout.

It would be highly advantageous for society if someone of knowledge of the utilification of telephone lines, railways, electricity, etc, could make an easily digestible timeline for that taking place.

Aren't Liveleak and Dailymotion still running? Aren't there other video services?

I know it's convenient to upload stuff to YT but there are other services up there who won't be as arbitrary as YT

I know google's a private corporation and is free to delete what it wishes from its own databases, but I thought it's mission was to "organize the world's information"

There should be a law that once a company gets so big, it is automatically regulated as a public utility.

That would put an end to most of our current problems with massive institutions like this.

Well, no surprise - ever since Google turned fully evil, it has been working against mankind.

It's a wonderful opportunity to stop using Google-related products and feed more evilness into Google.

Google is in its own right to limit speech in its services. More work should be invested in making distributed networks (i.e. Bittorrent) easy to use to any user.

Do not ever rely on services that are free of charge. Do not store data in services that are free of charge and expect it to be safe etc. etc. ...

I don't agree with Google's actions here, but this has to be somewhat expected. If your day-to-day is closely entwined with terrorism, extremism, etc. you have to know that some of your content or actions aren't going to be welcome everywhere. I mean, people in the porn industry surely take precautions because they know they're content isn't welcome everywhere, why wouldn't the author?

IMO google is going too far, but I'd bet thats an automated system and this article will get enough press to stop it.

It is kind of odd that the whole Google account is wiped and canceled.

I post a YouTube video big G doesn't like, then they close my whole Google account. So now my Android phone, all my contacts, call history, purchased apps + music, etc, are now gone? And my nest thermostat resets to factory defaults? And all my AdWords campaigns for my small sole proprietorship. And...so on.

...and what about all those services you used to "Log in with Google"...

Which is why you never ever use the "log in with Google/Facebook" buttons.

Google really manifests freedom of speech.. honestly: LACK of it.

CTRL + F "Disclaimer: I work at Google"

Funny how that never comes up on these threads. I get it you can't discredit your employer. Even at Google.

In all fairness, this has only been posted for an hour, and it was only at the top of HN for 20 minutes or so.

Probably because employees are asked not to post on topics that could be controversial or where they are likely to only have a very small part of the picture.

Googlers do read a lot of hackerne.ws articles and will flag cases like this internally for review where appropriate. :)

^ Cynicism at its best.

This should bother you a lot more than the firing.


Kind of strange that there is countless Nasheeds (islamic chants) calling to war against infidels etc. on youtube. But stuff like this gets deleted.

Well just stop being a nazi who questions everything. Problem solved! Nazis like you don't belong on the internet.

mmm delicious false equivalence

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact