Some big entertainment businesses and online platforms may feel so powerful that they can play Gods, or worse, as censors out to kill on a whim others' freedom of speech and expression. These companies probably fail to realize that whatever power they hold emanates from the public, with their support.
A recent incident revealed once again such big businesses' penchant for censorship when YouTube and Walt Disney suspended their partnership with influential Swedish social media superstar PewDiePie after he posted a series of videos deemed anti-Semitic and regarded
" inappropriate" by YouTube and Walt Disney.
YouTube runs the reality show of Felix Kjellberg, real name of PewDiePie, titled "ScaredDiePie which is about to start its second season. Kjelberg's channel has a phenomenal following of 53 million users. But such tremendous popular support did not stop YouTube from canceling the show over a newspaper report that alleged the channel turned up nine videos featuring Nazi imagery or anti-Semitic jokes.
A representative for Disney said that while admittedly Felix has created a following for being provocative and irreverent, he "clearly went too far" in the said case, and the resulting videos are "inappropriate".
Kjellberg, 27, argued in a Tumbler post that he did not endorse hate-based groups. He also reminded everyone that the content he creates fall under the realm of entertainment, and would be quite a stretch to be regarded as serious political commentary. He said that his audience perfectly understand the entertainment function of his channel, the main reason they watch his content.
PewDiePie was one of the most followed stars on YouTube, his videos commanding a huge 14 billion collective views. Kjellberg even made it to Time magazine 2016 list of 100 most influential people.
In spite of his immense popularity- and logical profitability- YouTube easily decided to sever its ties with him, even if he means 'good business'. The online platform did not even give Kjellberg the benefit of a full investigation, and a possible reminder or even warning before totally canceling his well-followed show. It also did not give weight to the kind of content PewDiePie does, and the fact that in comedy, everything and anything is fair game. It also did not bother to qualify how exactly Kjellberg "went too far", what standards, guidelines or bases they followed to arrive at their decision to cut ties with PewDiePie.
YouTube and Walt Disney flexed their muscles by canceling a show simply because they do not agree with its content. PewDiePie's strong following failed to protect or shield him from the more powerful role YouTube and Walt Disney wish to play- that as demigods serving as shameless, callous censors who can do as they please no matter how arbitrary, unfair or whimsical their reasons are. Such censorship will ultimately prove more dangerous than whatever perceived "offensive content" PewDiePie showed. And since the power of YouTube and Walt Disney ultimately emanates from the public and their support, they should be ready for a strong backlash when supporters of Kjellberg illustrate just how displeased they are with censorship.