There is more trouble brewing in the social media world. For years now, conservatives have been aware that Silicon Valley has been amping up their fight against conservatism. Platforms like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter have been constantly silencing right-leaning voices, while allowing those who are just as controversial, but left-leaning, to continue to have accounts. It’s why conservative comedians and political commentators Steven Crowder and Owen Benjamin were banned from Twitter. It’s why conspiracy theorist Alex Jones was kicked off of Facebook. And, it’s why Louis Farrakhan still has a platform on both of those outlets.
However, we are now entering a new level of censorship on social media. This has manifested itself in two stories, both involving the subscription service platform, Patreon. Patreon is a service that allows content creators to create a subscription service for their followers, called “patrons.” Most larger companies that rely on content-based subscribers can afford to develop an in-house subscription platform. But for smaller companies and individuals, Patreon provides such a service so clients can create different levels of patron, which offer different rewards depending on the patronage.
Patreon became a much bigger player in the online content industry when, in June of 2017, YouTube updated its terms of usage for content creators. YouTube made dramatic cuts in how much certain channels would be able to earn from ad revenue by uploading content. These changes drastically affected smaller channels as well as channels focused on content not suited for all audiences, such as channels devoted to mixed martial arts. At the same time, this greatly benefited channels of companies who were already in line with YouTube’s censorship regulations, meaning moderate language and themes. These were largely operated by larger media companies such as NBC, CNN, and Fox. Searching for an alternative, many content creators turned to Patreon to create incentives for their fans. Users were able to earn a living by continuing to post their content on all forms of media while leaving some incentives for patrons only accessible through the Patreon platform. In May of 2017, Patreon had 50,000 content creators. That was put together in the four-year history of the company. Today, they have over 128,000 content creators. However, a lot of has changed in recent months.
Back in August, Robert Spencer (not to be confused with Richard Spencer), better known by his online persona “JihadWatch,” was banned from Patreon for unspecified reasons. Spencer was sent an email informing him that his account will be terminated and his remaining balance would be paid out. The email blamed MasterCard for the termination, stating that “MasterCard has a stricter set of rules and regulations than Patreon, and they reserve the right to not offer their services to accounts of their choosing. This is in line with their terms of service, which means it’s something we have to comply by.” No violation of terms was explained, and no warnings were ever issued. In fact, Patreon never even explained why they were beholding to the whims of MasterCard. At this point, the censorship of conservatives was widely known to exist on Facebook and Twitter. This was a new standard from a platform that was supposed to be the alternative to the sites that censored their users.
Last month, Patreon struck again. Carl Benjamin, better known as Sargon of Akkad, is a popular YouTuber with close to 900,000 subscribers. According to The New York Times, he was earning over $12,000 per month on Patreon before he received a ban for “racial and homophobic slurs to degrade another individual.” The video in question was uploaded to YouTube on another user’s (not Benjamin’s) channel. Additionally, the context of the video was completely ignored here. The racial slur in question here was used to highlight how White Supremacists talk about groups they hate. In short, Patreon kicked a user off of its platform for saying something on another platform under someone else’s channel, while willfully ignoring the context in which the term was used. At least this time Patreon didn’t try to blame it on MasterCard.
The backlash from this second banning has been harsh. Several high-profile accounts have been disbanded in protest. Sam Harris, a Liberal atheist with an extremely popular podcast, was Patreon’s 11th highest monthly earner according Graphtreon, a site that tracks Patreon statistics. Harris was pulling in as much as $65,000 for each episode of his podcast, Waking Up. Harris said in his press release that “these recent expulsions seem more readily explained by political bias.” He also made sure to distance himself from the political and ideological beliefs of those who were banned; he also made sure to explain that he was no longer willing to trust the whims of Patreon’s Trust and Safety Committee. Likewise, conservative political and social commentator Jordan Peterson and liberal counterpart Dave Rubin have both announced that they will be leaving Patreon. Before they announced that they would be leaving, Peterson had the sixth-ranked video account on Patreon, and Harris was ranked at 31. All three of these accounts are considered major blows for Patreon.
So what does this mean for the future of social media? For the first time that I can remember, there is a unified front going against these companies. Peterson is a conservative, Harris is a liberal, and Rubin is a moderate libertarian. This may be the first major step towards creating a platform where the only thing that is penalized is a call to violent action. For a while now, Leftists have used the boycott stick to beat their opponents into submission. It’s now looking like there is a unified boycott that acts against the same company. It’s possible that in the coming years, we may begin to see sites that will challenge Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, and create a social media outlet that allows the freedom of speech that the country allows. Of course, this will likely create larger echo chambers than the ones we currently have, where your political leanings determine which platforms you use. However, we can figure out how to cross that bridge when it is built.
Izzo Zwiren works in healthcare administration, constantly concerning himself with the state of healthcare politics. The topic of healthcare has led Izzo to become passionate about a variety of political issues affecting our country today. Aside from politics, Izzo is a fan of trivia, stand-up comedy, and the New York Giants. Izzo lives on Long Island with his wife and two adorable, hilarious daughters.