YouTube is biased, claims conservatives

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YouTube is biased, claims conservatives


With online videos becoming the most influential medium for political commentary in Korea, right-wing YouTubers are accusing Google of being partial against conservative content on its video-sharing website.

One such claim came from Kim Tae-woo, a whistle-blower turned conservative pundit, who argued on his personal YouTube channel last week that many of his videos critical of the Moon Jae-in administration were flagged with a yellow marker, a designation by the site’s administrators that limits the extent to which content creators can monetize their videos.

Kim said that after six out of seven of his videos criticizing former Justice Minister Cho Kuk and current Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae were labeled with the yellow markers, he attempted to test the system by uploading a video titled “the fair and just Moon administration.” That video, he claimed, was labeled with a green marker, allowing it to generate revenue from advertisements without restrictions.

Various other conservative YouTubers and the political opposition have claimed since last year that Google has been flagging content through a double standard that punishes right-wing content in particular. The main opposition Liberty Korea Party even held a seminar in October addressing the yellow marker issue, and its lawmakers threw a hailstorm of questions at Google Korea’s CEO John Lee at a parliamentary hearing on Oct. 4.

Lee, however, said the designations were unrelated to any political agenda.

With less than a hundred days left until a general election on April 15, both liberals and conservatives have taken to YouTube to propagate their respective messages to the public. Right-wing channels have generated immense viewership in particular, with the most popular, whose name loosely translates to “Hand of God,” boasting approximately 1.16 million subscriptions. Such channels are attracting viewers of an older generation who earlier had little contact with modern technology.

The left, while entering the YouTube game later than their conservative counterparts, have made up for lost time. “Alileo,” a channel run by liberal pundit and writer Rhyu Si-min, in a single year grew to a channel with 1.1 million subscribers and has been a focus of intense media attention due to Rhyu’s coverage of the scandal surrounding former Justice Minister Cho.

Experts and academics say that while political content on YouTube has enabled the public to engage with political news more closely, the lack of oversight on content has allowed the propagation of extreme and untrue news. “Hand of God,” for example, exploded in viewership after spreading unsubstantiated conspiracy theories about the impeachment of former President Park Geun-hye in 2017.

“After the 2017 presidential elections, a trend has been building in which viewers of both progressive and conservative stripes watch content that suits their tastes, which in turn solidifies their bias,” said Kim Hyung-joon, a politics professor at Myongji University. “YouTube channels like the ‘Hand of God’ or ‘Alileo’ make it difficult for political parties to reach out to centrist voters and can exacerbate political polarization.”

BY JEONG JIN-WOO, SHIM KYU-SEOK [shim.kyuseok@joongang.co.kr]

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