Nov 5, 2019

YouTube's standoff with conservative Heritage Foundation

Photo: Carsten Rehder/picture alliance via Getty Images

The Heritage Foundation is preparing to unveil a video Tuesday that slams YouTube for what it says is the censorship of its voice on YouTube's platform, sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: The video will be the first public acknowledgment of a months-long, behind-the-scenes dispute between the conservative think tank and the tech giant.

Details: In late September, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki met with Heritage Foundation president Kay Coles James and other members of Heritage's leadership team at their offices in Washington, sources tell Axios.

  • The meeting, which isn't that unusual for either party, was used to discuss an array of issues, including censorship.
  • While sources say the gathering was cordial, the two groups came to a standstill over YouTube's removal of a 2017 video from Heritage's content arm, The Daily Signal.

YouTube removed the video, which features a doctor making a comment about transgender issues, as a violation of its hate speech policies. Sources say that the tech giant offered to re-list the video, but only if but only if The Daily Signal removed the transgender reference by the doctor. Heritage sees that either-or choice as censorship.

  • In the video, Dr. Michelle Cretella, a pediatrician, says, "See, if you want to cut off a leg or an arm you’re mentally ill, but if you want to cut off healthy breasts or a penis, you’re transgender."
  • While The Heritage Foundation concedes that those comments are controversial, it argues that the topic of body alteration is worth having a civil debate around.
  • "As one of the largest content platforms in the world, YouTube should welcome more discussion rather than eliminating speech at the mob’s command,” said Rob Bluey, Heritage's vice president of communications, in a statement.

Between the lines: Heritage went through a similar standoff with Facebook, but eventually had its video reposted as a part of an appeals process.

The big picture: The standoff highlights a wider issue that conservatives face in squaring off against Big Tech. Some conservatives feel conflicted about crying foul over YouTube's decisions because of their belief that private companies should be free to set their own policies.

  • The Heritage Foundation, which has strong ties to the Trump Administration, takes a conservative positions on issues likes abortion and LGTBQ rights, but it also promotes free market economics and deregulation.
  • "As conservatives who believe in free enterprise, the last thing we should be calling for is government regulation or coercion of private companies," Bluey said.

Go deeper: Inside YouTube's hate speech minefield

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RNC expands convention search across the Sun Belt

Donald Trump, Mike Pence and their families on the last night of the Republican National Convention in Ohio in 2016. Photo: David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images.

The Republican National Committee is planning site visits over the next 10 days to more than a half-dozen cities — across the South and into Texas and Arizona — as it scrambles for a new convention host, people familiar with the internal discussions tell Axios.

Driving the news: The RNC's executive committee voted Wednesday night to allow most of the convention to move — with only a smaller, official portion remaining in Charlotte — after North Carolina's governor said the coronavirus pandemic would mean a scaled-back event with social distancing and face coverings.

Oil faces tough road back from coronavirus

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Oil companies in the battered shale patch are starting to bring back some production as prices climb, but a new report underscores how the pandemic is taking a heavy financial toll despite signs of revival.

Driving the news: Fourteen North American producers have filed for bankruptcy thus far during the second quarter, per a tally from the law firm Haynes and Boone, which closely tracks the sector's finances.

2 hours ago - World

Hong Kong legislature bans insults to Chinese national anthem

Activists holding a candlelit remembrance outside Victoria Park in Hong Kong on June 4, 2020, to mark the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown. Photo: Anthony Wallace/AFP via Getty Images

Hong Kong’s legislature approved a bill Thursday that makes insulting the "March of the Volunteers," the Chinese national anthem, illegal, AP reports.

Why it matters: It did so on the 31st anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests, when Chinese troops opened fire on pro-democracy activists in 1989. The death toll has never been released, but estimates vary between hundreds and thousands.