OpED: YouTube Taking Away Its Video Editor, And Creator Censorship

The Internet (TFC)— On September 20th, YouTube continued its crackdown on creators content by discarding its video editor. The open source software, although unsophisticated, granted some amateur video producers a voice. In my case, it made a two hour one-of-a-kind documentary on a unreported operation by my local police department. What does it mean for YouTube to strip the public of its free video editor?

According to a Google Groups notification by the company, the editor is going away due to lack of use. Those using the system expressed contempt, especially those using Chromebook. As a former Chromebook user myself, I found YouTube video editor to be the only system available. Nothing else was compatible, so you’re essentially forced to settle. Now, any video producer using a Chromebook has a giant monkey wrench thrown into their projects.

I actually produced my first feature-length documentary film using the YouTube video editor. The system was tricky, clunky, laggy, and almost imposed simplicity. However, with a lot of experimentation, clever tricks, trial and error, the project was finally finished.

Speak Friend And Enter took close to three years to fully produce, and two tries. It focused on an unreported police crackdown against teens in my locality of Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. The crackdown occurred while I was still in high school, enduring from 2011-2014. Speak Friend And Enter sought to document the various detainment’s, raids, searches, and alleged misconduct as they occurred. When filming began, the crackdown hadn’t yet ended.

The film was not only produced via YouTube’s video editor, but entirely filmed with a Sony Handycam. By all means Speak Friend And Enter was a homemade, very raw piece. Eventually, despite the challenges of finding an audience, the film went viral in 2015. Quickly, I was inundated with messages from former high school students who’d been targeted by the operation. They were glad that someone was watching, and told a story they never thought would be known outside their circles.

I tell this story to demonstrate an old cliche about our modern society’s connectedness. By all means, the operations Wauwatosa PD carried out were not meant to see the light of day. Even through open records requests, documents may be elusive as they involved minors. Speak Friend And Enter was one of the first spears which punctured this department’s cover. Although I was 19 by the time it was published, the original project was a 17-year-old’s brainchild. Speak Friend And Enter is proof that we live in a society where even a stoned teenager can broadcast a powerful story with unique implications.

YouTube’s video editor breathed life into countless projects. It’s a phenomenon perhaps other generations notice, but millennial’s own. We’re a generation relaying creations through SoundCloud, YouTube, blogs, and other platforms. It’s funny, and unfortunate, that the editor’s going coincides with an era of censorship and creative stifling by the video giant.

Particularly since the 2016 primary, YouTube has targeted numerous videos with restrictions or edits. Some channels have been wiped completely, thousands more demonetized. Normally, these actions revolve around offensive content that’s not advertiser friendly. Some even point to a case where an advertiser was angered that their ad appeared on a neo-nazi video.

The problem with censorship is…
Image Source: Cory Doctorow, Flickr, Creative Commons

However, numerous onlookers–especially content creators–feel it’s about information control. The terms that YouTube uses to censor channels are opaquely broad. In my case, every video I’ve made about the Wauwatosa Police Department including peaceful protests were demonetized. Another video I took of suspicious air traffic during the 2016 Milwaukee riots was also targeted.

Now the editor, an open resource valued by many, is also being deactivated. One might say that it’s simply due to lack of use, or a move to other software. However, especially given acts of censorship by the company in recent months, it’s up to interpretation. YouTube isn’t solely to blame, though. Even SoundCloud is becoming increasingly restrictive.

Everyday, an unseen pythonic choke hold tightens around the flow of free information and idea’s. Take it as you will. For this young writer, however, it’s just a sign that the new kids on the block are now a threat. A notion perhaps concerning some in tall towers, with deep pockets and wide influence.