YouTube Removes Skeptical Video While “Crisis Actor” Videos Remain

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Look, we all know YouTube is a disgusting cesspit. Case in point, if this video has been live for more than an hour, take a look at the comments below. Go on, I’ll wait.

Done? The worst, right?

I try to do my part by uploading videos that are heavy on the science, debunking dangerous ideas I see proliferating on YouTube. One of the biggest problems on YouTube are conspiracy theorists, which is why every video I do on conspiracy theories have comments that are nearly as toxic as any video where I mention that I’m a feminist. Oh lord, that’s going to be a two-fer, isn’t it? Yikes.

Two years ago, I posted a video on YouTube debunking the idea of “crisis actors,” which conspiracy theorists believe are people who are hired to play the grieving friends and family of terrorism and mass shooting victims. Because the conspiracy theorists don’t believe these shootings are real, they’ve invented crisis actors to explain all of the people shown on the news crying and mourning and attending elaborate funerals. It’s bullshit, and it’s dangerous bullshit because the conspiracy theorists track down these “actors” and harass them, and it probably won’t be long before they decide to actually physically harm them.

My post went up shortly after the terrorist bombings in Paris, so November of 2015 which also got more YouTube views instantly after posting it. You can read the transcript of that post, but unfortunately you can no longer watch the video. That’s because YouTube removed it last week for violating their community standards. According to the email they sent me, my video qualified as “predatory behavior, stalking, threats, harassment, bullying, or intimidation.” For the record, I didn’t mention any particular person in the video — only the fact that there are conspiracy theorists out there who were claiming the Paris attacks were a hoax, which I debunked.

The email says my video was flagged for review, and then deleted after review, which makes it sound like a real person watched it and decided it was in fact in violation. I don’t know if that’s true, but honestly I can’t decide which is worse: that a human at YouTube decided that debunking a dangerous conspiracy theory is akin to to “maliciously harassing or attacking another user,” or that their algorithm is blanket deleting anything reported by anyone while they falsely imply a human is overseeing it.

While I have appealed the decision, it’s been several days with no notice so I’m not holding my breath.

To make matters worse, while YouTube is deleting my skeptical content, they’re allowing actual conspiracy theorists promoting “crisis actors” to flourish. Crisis actors are a popular topic once again following the Parkland mass shooting, as conspiracy theorists rush to find “evidence” that the teenage survivors are government plants. The videos harassing these kids are so prolific that they’ve become their own kind of public health threat. A social media researcher posted Sunday showing what several large studies have previously suggested (and which I’ve talked about frequently): YouTube’s recommendation algorithm traps people in a conspiracy theory echo chamber. Watching one “crisis actor” video leads to countless more videos about how 9/11 is an inside job, we never landed on the moon, the Earth is flat — basically, every flavor of misguided bullshit on YouTube.

When I checked right now, YouTube still has plenty of videos up harassing David Hogg, one of the teenage Parkland survivors conspiracy theorists are after. And not only will the thousands of people watching those videos be more likely to click on other BS conspiracy theory videos, but now there’s one less video on YouTube debunking the BS. Thanks, YouTube.

And a real, non-sarcastic “thanks” to my Patreon supporters. Without you guys, there’s absolutely no way I would continue the sisyphean task of trying to educate people on YouTube. You’re the best!

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky

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