Miro Internet TV Blog

Gatekeepers at Work: YouTube Yanks Egyptian Activist

November 30th, 2007 by Nicholas Reville

YouTube’s market share in online video is monopolistic. Why does it matter? Here’s the best example yet: YouTube suspends Egyptian blog activist’s account.

You could protest YouTube’s policy in this case or any other situation where videos get censored. But fundamentally, the structure of the online video market is where the problem lies.

When the place people watch videos is the same as the place people host videos, you get consolidation and gatekeepers. Publishers want to put up a video once and reach as many folks as possible, so of course the more popular YouTube gets, the more reason they have to publish there. Users like to have one space that brings together all the video they like, but if all that video is hosted by the same service then you have a single company controlling what people can and can’t watch. This snowball effect for both creators and users is what helped YouTube grow so fast; the more popular it got, the more sense it made for everyone to use it. It’s also what put a single company in charge of so much of what gets seen online.

Miro is designed to break the tie between where a video is hosted and where it’s watched. Miro can pull in video from YouTube, from other big videos sites, or from any tiny server anywhere on the internet. Just as users don’t care where your web servers are, they shouldn’t care where your video is hosted. A decentralized model lets video hosting companies compete for creators with better service (not just the biggest user base) and gives viewers a unified experience that brings in video from everywhere (not just the biggest video site of the moment).

You can’t have real freedom of speech when 90% of viewers are watching video on just a few sites run by naturally risk-averse corporations.

5 Responses to “Gatekeepers at Work: YouTube Yanks Egyptian Activist”

  1. Fuchs says:

    It’s not that simple, or actually it is: He violated the TOS of the service, people complained, and the youtube staff enforced the rules by suspending the account (depending on whether this article describes the complete and true story).

    You have similar rules in your TOS at http://www.getmiro.com/terms/ like “We may, but have no obligation to, remove Content and accounts containing Content that we determine in our sole discretion are unlawful, offensive, threatening, libelous, defamatory, obscene or otherwise objectionable or violates any party’s intellectual property or these Terms of Use.”.

    I guess that’s just the way it is these days…

    Nevertheless I agree that competition in information distribution is a good thing — a must. The responsibility to _choose_ lies in the hand of the users. It’s not that there aren’t services more suitable for this kind of content.

    If this story helps people in remembering this responsibility, that’d be a small but important step towards more freedom of information and knowledge.

  2. Nicholas Reville says:

    Fuchs– it’s not that YouTube shouldn’t have a TOS or that they should allow any kind of content on their site or even that they made a bad decision in this case (I think they did, but that’s besides the point). The problem is that YouTube’s TOS shouldn’t be in a position of determining what people have access to. If YouTube wasn’t so dominant, it wouldn’t matter, but many people will never know about it if it’s not on YouTube. Consider traditional television: anyone can make a VHS tape and hand it around to friends. But if it’s not on TV, it won’t impact the public debate.

  3. Thank you for writing this story Nicolas :) I’ve used Miro to gain access to videos that I didn’t even know was available, or even had been produced.

    If knowledge is what makes us all stronger, then those who seek to oppress the populous will prefer ignorance to maintain their dominance and control.

    The revolution will be televised, and it will be downloaded with Miro.

  4. Getting videos to top of Google…

    Heres how to OWN Google…

  5. Lisa Boulay says:

    All right, then, I’ll go to hell.

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