If there’s one thing I hate in this world, it’s a cheater. No, I’m not talking about using a cheat code so you can blow through the last stage of Doom 3 to beat the end boss and see the ending sequence after a long weekend of slagging your way through demons the old fashioned way — I mean, cheating where it counts, where cheating affects another human being negatively. And where those internet-keyboard-brigade creationists are concerned, while all of their actions are objectively negative, those actions that can safely be described as “cheating” are especially deplorable. This is the story of how those same creationists are cheating at Youtube.
Youtube, like any other user-content-driven website, is a meritocracy, where the videos with the most views and the highest user-ratings make it to the front page, where they get even more views as a reward. So, when creationist-debunking videos like those by Thunderf00t and cdk007 and ZOMGItsCriss start garnering e-accolades for their intelligent, well-researched rebuttals to creationist “theories” (in their parlance — in ours, you’d have to say hypotheses), this obviously bloodied a few creationist noses.
Mind you, this isn’t hard, when the best they have to offer is crap like that the banana was perfectly created for humans by “Almighty God”, thus giving atheists nightmares (despite the fact that the banana you buy in the grocery store is a product of thousands of years of cultivation by humans, and is nothing like the original God Brand Banana), or that peanut butter must naturally spawn new life once in a while if abiogenesis is correct (figure that one out!), or that the speed of light must have been faster in the past to account for being able to see stuff that’s hundreds of millions of light years away when the universe is only 6000 years old (you should go on to watch the rest of cdk007’s film series when you’re done that one), or that the entire sedimentary record is the result of the Great Flood and that the Grand Canyon was carved in minutes, thus the three hundred mile long trench was dug at hundreds of times the speed of sound.
So, having had their noses bloodied, the creationists have resorted to dirty pool — throwing sand in the eyes of those who champion science by issuing false DMCA takedown notices, then calling up a robot army to do their dirty work.
The DMCA takedown notices serve to temporarily remove the videos until someone at Youtube can go in and verify that there is no actual copyright being violated — e.g., because all the clips in the video fall under “fair use”, or having been taken from videos that explicitly state that they are free for copying, creative commons, or otherwise legal to redistribute without charging. Of course, abuse of the DMCA is illegal, and VenomFangX for instance has had to swallow his pride and post a video exonerating Thunderf00t from his spurious charges once before, but that isn’t stopping other folks from wielding the DMCA laws as a sword against atheists, skeptics, and scientists.
The bot armies are particularly onerous, automating the process of creating accounts, searching for any video by a particular user, then down-rating them all — resulting in such unlikely scenarios as a few thousand 1-star ratings on a video that’s only been up for a few minutes, thus pushing the video so far down the listings that nobody’s likely to ever see it to begin with. Counter-tactics (since the “good guys” won’t stoop to their level) have included begging for 5-star ratings to dilute the vote-bots’ effects and complaining to Youtube directly.
Complaining has not alleviated the situation, and in fact has had an unintended effect — when Thunderf00t was unable to get the powers-that-be to take action regarding the vote-botting that’s been hitting his and his compatriots’ channels, in frustration (and a degree of rashness), he put up a video explaining exactly what was going on, how it was in Youtube’s financial best interests to do something about all the dirty tricks (e.g. frustrated or silenced users = fewer users = lower ad revenue), and how we, the viewers, could complain to Youtube to add our voices to the chorus. Youtube didn’t like this, and took down Thunderf00t’s video. Other users mirrored the video, though, even going so far as to re-encode them or add a few seconds of extra material so as to bypass Youtube’s automated duplicate filters, in a clever gambit by the community completely unprompted by Thunderf00t himself. And here’s a follow-up video, reposted of course to avoid being taken down, though who knows how long this repost will be up.
I document all of this internet drama partly because I feel it needs to be made known, and partly because it’s the weekend, and acting like a keyboard warrior is my way of saying “I just watched Ong Bak again, and wish I could kick ass like Tony Jaa, but sticking my nose into a protracted creation-vs-science fight on the internet is the closest thing I can get.” I was surprised to find that this saga has even merited a mention on my favorite evolution-related blog, Pharyngula, so it seems I’m not alone in my desires to stick my nose in. I don’t have one millionth the credibility to back up my words that PZ Myers does, but I’ll be damned if I stay silent while the creationists keep working their wedge strategy everyplace they can. Warning: don’t read that last link if you have booze in the house, or you’ll drink yourself into a coma.
As an antidote to all this drama and bullshit, here’s my hero calling like it is. The only one I’m going to embed.