Whether you believe it’s justified or whether you believe it’s censorship, people are being stifled on social media as a result of the events from last week. Should podcasters be worried they’re next on the list? We turn to the podcasting industry’s favorite attorney for answers…Gordon Firemark.
PBJ: With accounts on social media platforms being blocked, should podcasters be concerned?
Firemark: We should all, always be concerned about censorship… but the concern should be about government telling us what we can/can’t say. I’m not at all troubled by individuals being barred from private online services after numerous warnings and breaches of rules. That’s the prerogative of the owners of the service… however poorly reasoned their decisions may be. That’s the free market at work. The Citizen’s United ruling makes clear that corporations have free speech rights, too… so government can’t tell them what they must carry or with whom they must do business.
I feel that this brouhaha about censorship has shifted the focus of the story AWAY from the real story… and that’s troubling. But I don’t know what else the services could’ve done. It’s a tough situation all around.
PBJ: What should podcasters be careful of when talking about the election?
Firemark: I don’t think podcasters need to be “careful” about anything but being truthful and presenting things fairly. It’s OK to have an opinion, even an unpopular one, but to clothe it in language of fact is deceit, and shouldn’t be tolerated. So, let’s all be forthright about theft that we’re sharing points of view. But, if you’re going to do a news show; if you consider yourself a journalist, then bring professional journalistic standards and ethics to bear on what you’re doing. (Even though these days there are few role models to follow for examples of this)
PBJ: YouTube banned Steve Bannon’s podcast. What are your thoughts on that?
Firemark: YouTube is owned and run by a private company, so it’s within their rights. They may experience fallout as a result… though I’m sure that’s a calculated risk. But this doesn’t mean Bannon can’t produce, publish and promote his podcast… just not on YouTube.
Do you believe hosting companies can/will be targeted if podcasters talk about the election being stolen?
Firemark: Targeted yes? Though I sincerely hope they don’t cave into the pressure. They could also be targeted if they don’t carry such material. It’s a Hobson’s choice for them. So, yes, some hosting companies will be inundated with unreasonable demands, bogus DMCA takedowns or other abusive tactics, and maybe boycott campaigns. (Nothing new, really).
So, they may react in their own self-interest with more bans like YouTube’s of Bannon. Personally, I prefer to do business with companies that provide their services on a content-neutral basis, and that resist pressure from any direction to “shape” what they carry, but I’ll honor their right to decide for themselves.. and then I’ll vote with my dollars if I’m displeased.
What overall advice do you have for podcasters moving forward?
Firemark: Podcasting is a powerful medium, to be sure, but we mustn’t forget that we’re really all in a bunch of little echo chambers. I don’t think many of us are really going to change anybody’s minds about much. We’re narrowcasting to people who subscribe to our shows because they agree with us. But what could happen if we all acted responsibly, with transparency and integrity? What if we took time to listen to others before trying to shout them down? We as podcasters can choose to live up to the potential of this medium.
Reach out to Gordon by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org