In 2008, TV producer Cara Lavan set up a YouTube channel, Know Drugs, that provided unbiased information on a wide scope of drug-related topics. Shortly after a video on ibogaine was flagged last December, YouTube removed the entire account. While YouTube reinstated the channel shortly after, stating that they did not find the channel to be a violation of YouTube guidelines after all, only 5 videos remained. This act of censorship is odd given YouTube's 2013 battle with a Russian blacklisting law, in which they acted in favor of free speech.
Since the channel was reinstated with 99% of its content removed, people have spoken out in support of Know Drugs, including Graham Hancock who argued that YouTube has an important role in fostering a free, open source of information.
From Open Democracy:
On December 3rd, 2013, Know Drugs received a message via e-mail from the social media giant, YouTube stating one of their videos had been flagged as inappropriate. The video was entitled ‘How is Ibogaine used in different cultures?’
The video in question discussed the traditional, sacramental use of the Ibogaine-containing Tabernanthe Iboga in west central Africa. It showed an interview with ethnobotanist Hattie Wells. This is a transcript of the video:
It’s not used regularly. In Africa it’s used. It’s used as their sacrament so much like we would go to church and you know, partake of the. What do you call it? Communion, partake of communion. They will go to church and eat Iboga root. Now they’ll do that and they’ll eat small amounts which are stimulating doses but when they go through their rite of passage they’ll eat a large dose which actually takes them to the point of death. They call it the small death. And in that you’ll have a mother and father within the ritual and they’ll take you through the whole sort of 3 to 5 day process and stay with you throughout that. But that only happens once in your life or twice if you’re going to become a priest in this sort of area. The religion that uses it is called the Bwiti. And they’re scattered across 3 countries. And they will use it differently in each country, so sometimes the rite of passage may be aged 16 or 17. Sometimes it might be 23 or sometimes it’s somebody that finds the religion at 30 and your entrance into that religion will happen at whatever point you do that.
The full text of the video shows no violation of community standards, so how did YouTube reach their conclusion so abruptly and without explanation? On the About page of the YouTube website, it states, “YouTube provides a forum for people to connect, inform, and inspire others across the globe and acts as a distribution platform for original content creators and advertisers large and small.’’ If they are suppressing content and erasing videos simply because said material doesn’t fit with a moralistic, Judeo-Christian standard, then it betrays their stated mission to be a global and unbiased platform for people to post their video content.
What YouTube did next, again without explanation, whether by machine censors or real people censors shows us that something is seriously broken with their system.