Social media platforms and their prejudice against Yemen
By turning selective attention to the 18 media accounts instead, YouTube fuels fears of an unspoken war against the musical and artistic culture of historic populations such as Yemen.
In a concerning crackdown against Yemen’s social media freedoms and its artistic liberties, U.S.-based online video-sharing platform YouTube shut down a range of channels linked to the “Yemeni Military Media” – explained away as an “arbitrary step.”
The unilateral intervention arrives at a telling juncture. For one, it comes on the heels of similar shutdowns through Facebook and Twitter in the past, leading some to collectively interpret it as another deliberate attempt to silence Yemeni voices and force their plurality of views, artistic insights, and projections to be seen in a different light. Such open targeting also confirms the exercise of blatant double standards on free speech and expression by the management of these social media platforms on a case-by-case basis. Their present refusal to lend adequate and equal visibility to voices native to Yemen blows open a larger, deeply-rooted conversation about social media companies and their reluctance to accept indigenous content in a consistent and favorable manner.
Consider the views and public traction gained by the closed channels: they reportedly accumulated more than 500 thousand subscribers with more than 7 thousand videos and more than 90 million views. Since there is no desire to align the artistic content of these accounts with the narratives, hypocritical policies, and social media prejudice of the West, social media platforms such as YouTube consider it their own prerogative to muzzle out Yemeni voices and justify the blatant violations as an arbitrary move. However, it is the management of these same social media giants that continues to put its weight behind far-right politicians of the West, their social media sympathizers, and key figures in the Israeli occupation, all to the detriment of genuine free speech.
It is a fact that many of the channels subject to YouTube’s abrupt closure also entail content that is seen as consistent with creativity. Music and arts, for instance, identify as some of the common themes, as opposed to the outright propagation of hate and political instigation at the hands of many Western leaders and influencers of the past. YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook’s disregard for such nuance, particularly with regard to Yemen, is reflective of glaring selectivity and open censorship that has come to define the platforms’ freedom bias towards Yemen.
In terms of the stated policy of some of these social media platforms, there is little to suggest a reversal of hypocritical conduct towards Yemen. For instance, in Twitter’s own telling, defending and respecting the user’s voice is among its “core values” and the company claims such values are part of “a two-part commitment to freedom of expression and privacy.” However, those cosmetic and rhetorical guarantees hit a brick wall when it comes to extending a single standard of free and fair content projection for Yemen, as historically witnessed.
The right of Yemeni population segments to broadcast their content, including through the media entity’s art and documentary production unit, is forcibly made secondary to the same rights and standards extended to many other parts of the world. To that end, these social media companies’ exercise of blatant censorship and coordinated shutdowns raises serious questions about platforms’ stated and demonstrated policies on global values. By unwarrantedly stamping out content that is indigenous to Yemen, YouTube reveals that policy split with alarming clarity.
The latest wave of account blocking merits particular concern at a time when countries are pushed to prioritize visibility for all meaningful forms of opinions and social media content from different parts of the world. Consider how YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter face no problem marketing content that is sympathetic to "Israel’s" illegal occupation of Palestine, indirectly promoting skewed coverage that occupation leaders have used to justify the killings of legions of besieged Palestinians. Western social media companies are also unqualified to preach the merits of self-identified free speech as they host accounts of leaders that have been known to support war crimes, skirt legal accountability in the court of law, and deny occupied territories their right to defend, resist, and express.
By turning selective attention to the 18 media accounts instead, YouTube fuels fears of an unspoken war against the musical and artistic culture of historic populations such as Yemen. The absence of any internal protest from within these platforms is also concerning. After all, millions of Yemeni children are most deserving of future visibility, as scores of them are at the cusp of a humanitarian catastrophe. Meanwhile, these social media companies reap billions off free speech propaganda.
To still explain away such a violent shutdown of idiosyncratic channel content as some “arbitrary step” is to ignore the fundamentals of it all. The ground reality of social media prejudice towards Yemeni identity stands reinforced as a result of the move. Especially when many national pages, accounts, and channels pertaining to Yemen have been past targets of closure, subject to excessive restrictions or simply banned without any justification.