Via America’s LawyerMike Papantonio and Trial Lawyer Magazine editor Farron Cousins discuss how the YouTube platform, once revered as a user-based medium for free speech, has been banning or flagging certain videos using an algorithm that hunts for ‘inflammatory’ keywords. Plus, criminal justice reform activist and former DC police officer Ronald Hampton joins Mike Papantonio to break down a report by the Prison Policy Initiative, which documents staggeringly high rates of recidivism among black and poor populations.


*This transcript was generated by a third-party transcription software company, so please excuse any typos.

Mike Papantonio:             Independent creators and media outlets are being punished by Youtube’s new algorithm shift that was supposed to filter out harmful content, but instead it appears to be promoting corporate outlets. I have Farron Cousins with trial lawyer magazine with me to talk about what’s happening. You know, Farron, it’s almost like they’re not getting the memo. It’s the folks at Youtube have not gotten the memo that their political correctness is killing independent media and now it’s being taken over by corporate media, again. MSNBC, CNN, ABC, CBS, all that money’s moving in and the independent’s are being pushed out, which is exactly why we have this system to begin with. To avoid corporate media that really has turned into nothing but a corporate glut of non-news.

Farron Cousins:                  Right.

Mike Papantonio:             Let’s, talk to me about this.

Farron Cousins:                  Well, what’s interesting is, you know, Youtube for the last few years, they, they’ve struggled a lot because there is a lot of hateful, harmful content, you know, radical content out there and they want to keep it away from people. They’re not having it show up in the recommended videos. It’s not being monetized, but by doing this, they kind of painted everything with a broad brush and now you find videos that certain words, even when you’re calling out something like racism, because you said the word racism, your video’s going to get demonetized. Your video is not going to get shared as widely, even though you’re denouncing this thing that just gets caught up in this massive sweep from the algorithm. So that’s, that’s one part of it, obviously. Youtube overreacted to what has happened with the harmful content and they try, they created a giant net.

Mike Papantonio:             Okay. First of all…

Farron Cousins:                  That’s catching everybody.

Mike Papantonio:             Okay. It’s, it, we cannot ever be completely politically correct. We have to agree with that. We can’t, there’s no way that you can have media that is always completely politically correct. So this is the best example because I could go on with a dozen story, tens of dozen stories, just like this. BreadTube, okay. BreadTube was a product where they would, they would attack right wing, crazy talk, like the crazy talk, the deniers of the Holocaust. So BreadTube comes out and tries to explain it and talks about how this is nothing more than Nazi propaganda and all of a sudden they’re flagged. Okay. And ultimately they’re taken down, they lose their right to do anything.

This is an organization that’s out there to address hate talk and they disappear. How did it happen? First of all, it happened because of these inane, ridiculous algorithms that are running right now that, oh by the way, we were even flagged one time and had to protest to come back. And our story was about the leadership in Saudi Arabia and they attacked us as if we had said something wrong. But what happened here, and it happens all the time, is they react to likes and dislikes.

That’s literally something they look at. Oh well what are the dislikes? Well, when you have right wingers coming in and saying BreadTube did something awful, that’s the first strike. And then it gets worse beyond that. This is a dysfunctional system that is now being flooded by the same corporate media that we always try to get away from.

Farron Cousins:                  Well, and the other part of that with, with the flagging of the videos is that anytime there is content that the other side doesn’t like, they can send their folks in. Everybody go down vote this video, everybody you know, report it because there’s something in it that we think is bad and Youtube kind of gives the people who flag the videos the benefit of the doubt. You know, nobody would ever lie about this. So let’s take the video down or demonetize it and then go through the review process to see if that is what happened. And it’s because they are very reactive, you know, they don’t want to take the time at first. They hope that they’ll take your video down and you won’t say anything and they move on with their day. But again, that’s just half the story too.

Mike Papantonio:             Farron, this is all about…

Farron Cousins:                  The other half is…

Mike Papantonio:             It’s all about money.

Farron Cousins:                  It is.

Mike Papantonio:             Okay.

Farron Cousins:                  And that’s the other half.

Mike Papantonio:             Let’s call it what it is. The other half, this is all about money.

Farron Cousins:                  Right.

Mike Papantonio:             All of a sudden we see, do they want to become the same thing that that imbecilic Facebook has become? Where, oh, we’re having a birthday party. Here’s uncle Fred’s, you know, second marriage, let’s film it. All this feel good imbecilic kind of material that never tells the American public anything. I mean they could become a bunch of imbeciles if that’s what they want. And they can do that by allowing corporate media to do the same thing that they’ve done to the American public already.

Look, think about this. In 1980 there were almost 60 independent sources for news media. You know what it is now? Four, maybe some people say three, all the media in this country comes down to three, three organizations. And so, so we had Youtube because we independent news could come in, we could have a voice that got away from the pabulum that we have to listen to on the nightly news or MSNBC or CNN. We could get away from advertisers telling us what it is we’re going to listen to because that’s what happens on MSNBC.

Farron Cousins:                  Right.

Mike Papantonio:             You know, I did MSNBC long enough to understand when they didn’t like us, when an advertiser didn’t like the story, they say, well, we can’t let, we can’t let them, let, can’t let them do the story.

Farron Cousins:                  Well, and when you have these, these advertisers, they’re, they’re not telling the creators what you can and cannot say. They’re telling Youtube what you can and cannot put their ads on. So Youtube and, and the studies have shown this, I think we’re at about 95% of the time in their recommended videos, it is a, what they call legacy media, which is your CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News, ABCs. So they’re suggesting that even if you’re looking at, you know, an independent journalist who did a video on their phone with their webcam, you know, saying, listen, I’m here, I’m in the field. I’m doing real reporting. And Youtube says, hey, because you liked this guy, maybe you want to watch some, some pundits duke it out on CNN.

Mike Papantonio:             Yeah, the same thing that we’ve been seeing…

Farron Cousins:                  Right.

Mike Papantonio:             For years, which is meaningless. Stupidity.

Farron Cousins:                  Yeah.

Mike Papantonio:             And so the, the truth is that we never, because of this new algorithm and because of the new Youtube fear of being criticized, we don’t get environmental cases. We don’t get cases about corporate misconduct, about pharmaceutical companies killing the American public. Because, because on corporate media, you can’t tell stories like that because advertisers don’t let them. We don’t get stories about Wall Street misconduct or the backstory to anything. This is a disaster. Hopefully they’re going to get it under control.

Mike Papantonio:             A recent report released by the prison policy initiative has sent the media a buzz. It found staggering high recidivism among the people of color as well as people from underprivileged backgrounds often trapping them in a revolving door. Justice reform activist and former DC police officer Ronald Hampton joins me to talk about it. Ronald, first of all, let, let’s start off with just a couple of facts and figures because the facts and figures tell the story. The report that indicates that among the nearly 5 million people incarcerated every year, nearly one quarter of those people are repeat, repeat offenders. Talk about that.

Ronald Hampton:             Well, they are because they have a lot of problems and in our society we don’t deal with those problems. A lot of times we lock people up rather than try to find out what are the root causes to the situations that happen. And it can be as minor as people in vacant houses, they can be people who are out panhandling on the street, all of those kinds of things. And we actually have had cities in the last five, six, ten years that had developed laws that prevent people from panhandling. And if you do, you get arrested.

Well, if a person gets arrested panhandling for money, then they don’t have the money to be able to pay out. And then we have other laws that’s been enacted that surround that same kind of scenario. And so what we, what we have done is provided a way to incarcerate people even more and less of a way to deal with the root cause issues that they confront every day.

Mike Papantonio:             Yeah, you know, it’s interesting, presidential hopefuls this time at least are bringing this topic up. You’ve got Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, they recently unveiled these sweeping criminal justice reforms. They cite overcrowded prisons and millions of minorities being disenfranchised by what they consider racially charged systems of incarceration. Their proposals include repealing tough on crime legislation, ending mandatory minimum sentencing, putting up a stop to cash bail system.

Ronald Hampton:             Right.

Mike Papantonio:             Does that make sense to you? You’ve worked in this your entire life. Does any of that make sense? Or is it, is it just gonna be something that makes the process worse as we’re already hearing from the conservative side of it? And that is that this isn’t a social issue. This isn’t, this doesn’t have to do with poverty. These are just people who commit crimes. I mean, that’s, that if you really reduce what the other side is saying, that’s what they’re saying and that’s what the population is buying into, that you can’t do anything to change this. This is just endemic of the population. Those arguments are actually being made right now.

Ronald Hampton:             Well, I disagree with that. I think if we invested as much in education, housing, into healthcare in the type of services that we provide to individuals in our community rather than an, and while reducing the criminal justice budgets in our cities and counties and invest that money in people, then we will begin to see the kind of services increased and the services as well as the decrease in the prisons population of these people. It clearly has been a problem. And so if they are talking about reform, what I would call restruction, they then they have to consider those kinds of issues. The entry to the criminal justice system is through arrest and police go out there every single day and carry out the, the mission of our society.

And if people who are poor, people who are mentally ill, people who are down on their luck, people who don’t have housing and jobs are the target of those pieces of legislation and the laws, then those are going to be the people who get locked up. Why would you lock up someone who doesn’t have a job, place a bail on him, a cash bail on him or her who can’t pay the bail and then end up spending 90 to 120 days in jail? It doesn’t make sense. When we could be servicing that person, providing them with some social services and the other things that they need to make them whole and productive individuals in our society, I think that’s the way to go.

Mike Papantonio:             Yeah. Unfortunately we have, we have a justice system that’s built around retribution.

Ronald Hampton:             That’s true.

Mike Papantonio:             Much more than it’s built around rehabilitation or anything really creative. Ronald, thank you for joining us. Okay. I don’t have, I don’t have a lot of hope that Capitol Hill is going to do much with this, but they might, at least the discussion is out there. We’ve got, we’ve got to actually be talking about this. Thank you for joining me, Ronald. Okay.

Ronald Hampton:             Thank you very much for having me.

Mike Papantonio is an American attorney and television and radio talk show host. He is past president of The National Trial Lawyers, the most prestigious trial lawyer association in America; and is one of the few living attorneys inducted into the Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame. He hosts the international television show "America's Lawyer"; and co-hosts Ring of Fire Radio, a nationally syndicated weekly radio program, with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Sam Seder.