(UPDATED) In one sense of the term, podcasts are censored from the only directory most people will ever use, iTunes. Some of the same podcasts don’t show up in the indexes that podcast applications like Overcast maintain.
Not by any coïncidence whatsoever, all the affected podcasts are by conservatives. This shadowbanning seems to be deliberate.
The concept of a feed has never been adequately explained to laypeople. The current sense of the word refers to e.g. infinitely scrolling Facebook or Instagram “content.” Of course that’s another sense, but the original meaning referred to RSS, an acronym whose expansion is pointless, so don’t bother.
RSS feeds are what make podcasts possible. These simple files tell any podcast reader, or any other application, if and when a podcast has been updated, and where any audio files are stored (for downloading or streaming).
Whatever podcast application you use (your “podcatcher”) maintains a list of the podcasts to which you subscribe. In another sense this too is a feed, but it’s more precisely what I just described – a subscription list.
But where do you find podcasts to subscribe to in the first place? Most of the time, it’s on iTunes. The vast majority of people use iTunes as a directory, and also mistakenly think iTunes is needed to subscribe to a podcast (it isn’t).
There are umpteen other platforms similar to iTunes, like Stitcher and SoundCloud. When you subscribe to a podcast on iTunes or essentially anywhere else, all you’re really doing is adding that podcast’s RSS feed to your subscription list. iTunes isn’t actually involved.
There are weird lock-in scenarios where you have to use a certain platform to listen to the podcasts to which you’ve subscribed. But in all cases RSS feeds are used behind the scenes.
The other place where most people will look for podcasts to subscribe to is right within their podcast application. For that, those applications have to have access to a directory, often custom-made and ‑maintained.
On the Web, one may link to anything without endorsing it and without drawing any inference. A link is just an address.
An RSS feed has a link. An RSS feed is also an address.
Both links’ and RSS feeds’ addresses are simple statements of fact: “This item can be found at the given address.”
Refusing to list a podcast in a directory is a form of genteel censorship. The feed still exists and you can still subscribe to it, except that you are being prevented from finding it unless you have unusual skills and knowledge.
Freedom of speech is a right. So is the freedom to listen to anything you want. It is no skin off your ass what other people choose to publish, or what still other people choose to listen to. You aren’t them.
I checked for many left-wing and right-wing podcasts in iTunes and in my beloved podcast application Overcast. Marco Arment, its prickly creator (takes one to know one), had written: “I’m not equipped to consistently enforce appropriateness of content, so I filter through the iTunes podcast directory.”
In my testing, only right-wing podcasts have their feeds suppressed (or “censored” in this context).
Beauty & the Beta
Fallen State with Jesse Lee Peterson
Federalist Radio Hour
Get Off My Lawn (see CRTV below)
Jim Goad’s Group Hug
Alex Jones (InfoWars); Episode 911 of the Joe Rogan podcast, which featured Alex Jones, was for some months unavailable on any directory
Lipstick, Heels, & Western Zeal (sic)
Pressure Project (later renamed and supplanted)
This Is Europa
Various Milo Yiannopoulos podcasts
Remember, if you can somehow find the RSS feed by yourself, you can still subscribe to these podcasts.
CRTV (difficult case: CRTV hides and combines many of its feeds)
Fash the Nation‡
Reality Calls Show
The Red Ice/Radio 3Fourteen case (daggered† above) is instructive, because they’ve stated on various episodes that no amount of their complaining would induce Apple to include either podcast in its directory. I escalated various bug reports, and the only thing Apple would do is “confirm” they aren’t listed. I infer Apple has been posed that question before.
Podcasts from the Right Stuff reliably do not show up on iTunes’ directory (double-daggered‡ above). Another example, now defunct, was This Hour Has 88 Minutes (coverage).
Apple’s podcast terms of service state (excerpted; emphasis added):
Podcasts, and content linked from podcasts, cannot contain any of the following:
Content that could be construed as racist, misogynist, or homophobic
Content depicting graphic sex, violence, gore, illegal drugs, or hate themes
And here we have the classic slippery-slope formulation of the progressives who run Silicon Valley. Now you see why only conservative podcasts are suppressed.
When you buy a song via iTunes, it downloads in iTunes from an Apple server. But when you subscribe to a podcast or “get” an episode via iTunes, you’re actually downloading a remote file not hosted by Apple.
But to the average civilian, there is no discernible difference. You use iTunes as a directory in both cases, and it seems like Apple is delivering both files to you.
I think this would be relevant under U.S. law because Apple might lose a case arguing that its safe-harbour defence was moot by virtue of the appearance of hosting podcasts. The fact that Apple does not even list certain podcasts would suggest it applies differential treatment based on content, which it actually does, and doing so might violate the Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act.
The good thing about podcasts is they aren’t centralized. If you can find a place to host your audio files and your RSS feed, you have a working podcast.
Centralization of podcasting can take two forms, only one of which (concentration of assets into just a few large conglomerates) gets any attention. A de facto shadowban on podcasts somebody decided they dislike is another form of centralization, especially, as in Overcast’s case, if such shadowbanning is simply outsourced to the conglomerate that already has centralized podcasting, Apple.
What we have now is a shadowban on podcasts that progressives find offensive. If those progressives had the courage of their convictions, they would operate a blacklist and explicitly tell users they are barred from sullying their platforms with forbidden “content.”
A general-purpose Web browser can be used for aims you find offensive. They can be used to break laws. Nobody seriously contends that Web browsers should be banned or hobbled to prevent such infractions. Even Tim Cook admitted that you could “use an iPhone to go to your browser and go to some porno site, if you want to do that.”
Your podcast directory is, fundamentally, a list of online resources akin to a Web page (and uses similar fundamental technologies, like XML). Your podcast player is akin to a browser that makes audio/video files play when a user asks for that to happen.
Your customers are people with legal and other rights. It isn’t your business to infringe those rights.
List everything and censor nothing. Use the existing
explicit tag (an iTunes extension that is universally supported) and leave the choice to subscribe or not to consenting adults, even if you personally think those adults are racist, misogynist, homophobic, or hate-thematic. Nobody’s making you listen.
Posted: 2018.06.27 ¶ Updated: 2018.06.28, 2018.06.29