LOS ANGELES - FEBRUARY 17: The Late Late Show with James Corden airing Monday, February 21, 2022, with guests Haley Bennett, Sam Richardson, and Sam Morril. (Photo by Terence Patrick/CBS via Getty Images)
Terence Patrick/CBS via Getty Images


‘They Keep Moving The Goal Post In’: Big Tech’s War On Comedy


If you thought Big Tech might take a censorial knee following the pandemic’s end, think again.

The same platforms that restricted debates over vaccines, the virus’ origins and possible treatments are doubling down on telling us what to say, think and share. And, at times, the creators who make us howl.

Comedians — people tasked with distracting us from our woes — are among the most persecuted creators, now forced to navigate a digital landscape with few hard and fast rules. 

It’s not surprising then that a comic canceled by Hollywood became the latest victim of censorship.

Roseanne Barr, the superstar who lost her ABC series after firing off a racially-charged tweet in 2018, saw her recent chat with comic Theo Von go down the digital memory hole over a so-called “hate speech” violation.

The conversation found Von and Barr exploring “misinformation” and Big Tech censorship, ironically enough, when Barr sarcastically mentioned truth versus fiction, including references to the 2020 presidential election results.

“There’s such a thing as the truth and facts, and we have to stick to them … And nobody died in the Holocaust, either, that’s the truth. It should happen — six million Jews should die right now, because they cause all the problems in the world. But it never happened.”

Barr, who is Jewish, is known for her outrageous sense of humor and her battles with mental health woes. She was riffing here, and the results are admittedly spotty. Podcasts invite experimentation, another reason comedians dominate the audio space.

Von saw no malice in Barr’s comments, neither did Daily Wire’s editor emeritus Ben Shapiro. Von supported her by re-posting the clip on Twitter, a platform now run by ‘freer’ speech advocate Elon Musk after years of severe censorship exposed by The Twitter Files.

Hate speech isn’t a legal concept, but at least one Big Tech platform specified the reasons for the punishment. Often creators try in vain to learn why a particular piece of content got erased or punished.

Von’s channel couldn’t upload new videos for a week as punishment, plus it goes against the channel’s record. More strikes mean more punishments and possible channel termination. 

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., the Democrat fighting his own battles with Big Tech suppression, recently said Von wanted to invite him back on his comedy podcast but feared it would inspire another round of Big Tech censorship.

The Barr imbroglio meant Von’s channel is barred from uploading videos for a one-week period. Under YouTube’s three-strikes system, if Von’s channel runs afoul of YouTube policies again — in the next 90 days — it will be blocked for two weeks. A third violation could result in channel termination.

Comedienne Jocelyn Chia also ran afoul of Big Tech censors for a viral video that nearly capsized her career. An April comedy club snippet found Chia, a Singaporean stand-up, poking fun at the cultural divide between Singapore and Malaysia and the 2014 Malaysian flight that went missing, presumably killing 227 passengers and 12 crew members.

The overlords at both Instagram and TikTok appeared to bow to the mob’s demands and suspended her Instagram account and took down the video on TikTok.

Earlier this year, rising star comic Sam Morril raged on Twitter about how Instagram silenced one of his routines.

You spend all this time building a following on these apps and they keep moving the goal post in. An inoffensive joke pulled for “bullying and harassment.” Bulls*** apps that get rich off of our free content then act like hall monitors.

Morril didn’t share the nature of the banned bit, but he’s generally a traditional comic who occasionally veers into R-rated material. He’s not aggressively political, and he’s wise enough to make his more outrageous bits land with purpose.

Today’s comedians rely extensively on social media to build brand awareness, promote tours, share cutting-edge humor and connect with new and existing fans. Now, many self-censor rather than run afoul of vague censorial boards.

The censorship issue facing comedians is hardly new.

Comic/”Terror on the Prairie” actor Tyler Fischer forged his fame, in part, by his withering comic impressions. His videos parodying Dr. Anthony Fauci draw sizable view counts across social media. Yet Fisher says that impression and his take on Gov. Andrew Cuomo have been hit by TikTok and Instagram censors over time.

He says Facebook temporarily banned his Dylan Mulvaney impression and TikTok won’t let him poke fun at the trans social media star.

Canadian comic Ryan Long prides himself on mocking woke culture, done from an aggressively apolitical lens. That didn’t stop Instagram and TikTok from deleting his video sketch torching liberal racists.

“White Women Say Go Back To Hating White Men” shows white women decrying news outlets that are starting to target them for society’s ills.

The joke is on woke liberals who weaponize race, ignoring their blaring hypocrisy. Tell that to censors at two of the bigger social media platforms who couldn’t see the humor in it or determined it targeted the “wrong” demographic.

Comedian Chrissie Mayr loves poking the cultural bear with projects like her comedy album “Live from Jan. 6th.” At the start of the pandemic she gathered an array of comedians from diverse ethnic backgrounds for a cover of Carl Douglas’ disco-era ditty “Kung Foo Fighting” called “Kung Flu Fighting” due to the virus’ Chinese origins.

Instagram took it down, dubbing it “hate speech” despite the diversity of the singers in question and the fact that the virus did, mostly likely, spring from the Wuhan Lab in China.

Tasteless? Perhaps. Funny? It’s in the ear of the beholder, assuming they get to hear it at all.

Twitter and Rumble are banking on their social media peers doubling down on censorship. Both vowed to be more forgiving of outrageous or controversial material, letting audiences have the final say.

YouTube, along with long-standing digital platforms, make no such promises even if someone just wants to make viewers laugh.

Christian Toto is an award-winning journalist, movie critic and editor of HollywoodInToto.com. He previously served as associate editor with Breitbart News’ Big Hollywood. Follow him at @HollywoodInToto

The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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