Thanks to YouTube and our voyeuristic tendencies an Arizona woman by the name of Machelle Hobson apparently was able to parlay a blend of “The Truman Show” and “Mommy Dearest” movie concepts into a fat paycheck from social media advertising at the expense of five of her seven adopted children.
Arizona authorities charged Hobson with child molestation, child abuse, false imprisonment, and child neglect. If the charges are true, the YouTube sensation “Fantastic Adventures” that includes more than three dozen videos with more than 250 million views that shows “typical” childhood antics led to the five kids being starved, tortured, beaten with hangers, doused with pepper spray and forced to take ice baths when they didn’t perform up to par for videos, flubbed their lines, or refused to participate in videos she shot for posting on YouTube that were dubbed “Fantastic Adventures.”
This was serious business for Hobson as well as Google and a ton of advertisers that wanted their products pitched as intros to “wholesome” videos that garnered large numbers of views.
Prosecutors say a W9 form obtained from Google indicated Hobson received $300,000 as her cut of advertising revenue in 2018. Given how YouTube advertising works, this means Google likely pocketed millions over the past several years before YouTube suspended the account that had amassed 800,000 plus viewers.
You will notice that San Bruno based YouTube is not being charged with any crimes.
That’s because virtually everything that is Internet-related escapes laws designed to impose a degree of civility in the proverbial public square and protect people from being victimized by those in pursuit of a dollar whether they are individuals such as Hobson or companies like YouTube owned by Google.
We have strict laws in place to protect child actors on movies and TV shows from being exploited and abused. But when it comes to the Internet and social media it is a combination of the Wild West and Sodom and Gomorrah.
In the same week Hobson was arrested the Housing & Urban Development Department filed a civil lawsuit against Facebook for encouraging and enabling those with housing to rent to discriminate against a wide range of protected classes such as ethnicity, religion, sexuality, and more. Facebook essentially allows “like-minded” people to target each other with advertising by basically blocking those that don’t share the same values.
Mark Zuckerberg and his merry minions almost always roll out the same defense that was put in place by Congress when the Internet was in its infancy. Simply put they provide the platform and therefore aren’t responsible for what people post.
However, Facebook strives mighty to monetize every posting they can. And by now we all know that Facebook mines data to make money.
It is clear why Facebook is free has everything to do with advertising revenue and data they sell. That money that has made Zuckerberg one of the planet’s wealthiest individuals is why users don’t pay to have a Facebook page.
It’s rich that the likes of Google, YouTube, and Facebook interject their considerable resources and clout into political and social causes to combat child abuse and trafficking, discrimination, and “hate speech” yet their very platforms have enabled evils to spread like wildfire across the planet.
Rest assured they have ways of truly limiting the use of their platforms to reduce the spread of vile as well as to protect kids. But in doing so they’d have to invest a pile of their cash or else forgo some of the truckloads of money that they take in on a daily basis.
The rationalization to justify not to invest in a “safer” Internet that would reduce abuses by those seeking to rent housing or those eager to quit their jobs and make money by turning their children into forced actors so they can post videos in a bid to capture advertising dollars is no different than what Ford Motor Co. used to justify the continued production of Ford Pintos in the 1970s after they had data that showed a minimal fix could have virtually eliminated the tendency of their gas tanks to explode in rear end collisions but loses from lawsuits were easily absorbed by profits. The titans of social media have also basically determined the cost of doing business their way is dwarfed by the revenue rolling in.
Having to deal with the bad press from “Fantastic Adventures” is a small price to pay considering monitoring the Hobsons of the world that post content for profit would take a chunk out of their obscene profitability and likely send voyeurs that belong to targeted advertising audiences elsewhere.
In short, the movers and shakers of the Silicon Valley who for years have been given the rock star treatment are in many ways worse than the Wall Street villains the children of the Internet Age have come to loathe.
Zuckerberg may dress like them, sound like them, share the same political views, provide cool office environments, and basically give customers 100 percent “free” service but when it comes to accepting responsibility for damaging behavior that their business models promote, they make the David Rockefellers of the world they loathe look like Mother Teresa.
We are told, of course, that making the Internet comply to the same rules that apply to “old school” concerns would zap innovation and the free exchange ideas.
If this is the case then let’s take the shackle off “old school” concerns. Innovation, profits, and the free exchange of ideas would soar.
Of course, there would be byproducts we may not like such as young children being forced to “play” to scripts, discrimination in housing may soar, a handful of people profiting off forced labor or paying below minimal wage for the new “contract” economy.
It’s a small price to pay for new freedom and the ability of Google, Facebook, Amazon and et al to trail blaze new paths and pocket trainloads of money each year.
It’s kind of funny how that is working out since all they are doing is re-inventing the same things but doing so in the context of the Internet.
In this new world the parents that exploit their children to make $300,000 a year on YouTube get criminal charges slapped against them. Meanwhile tech firms wallowing in accumulated wealth from said videos provide little or no oversight of the platforms they create that are essentially a license to print money are immune from prosecution.
They hide behind legal cover extended to them by Congress because “old school” competitors were deemed so powerful they could supposedly stop the Internet from reaching its full potential.
I’ve got bad news. It’s reached its potential as it is now has replaced more pedestrian venues with high speed instantaneous satisfaction via the Internet to serve as the favorite incubator for the seven deadly sins — pride, greed, lust wrath, gluttony, envy and sloth.
And none of us have to leave the comfort of our couch (ordered from Wayfair of course) to partake. All we need is a device capable of accessing the Internet and we can bring everything we want to our fingertips and doorsteps.
And in the case of the Machelle Hobsons of the world we can exploit and abuse our kids for money for the pleasure of strangers in our home without the inconvenience of scrutiny.
This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Journal or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209.249.3519.