The Cornell Library YouTube page has been restored after it was terminated last week over nudity content
ITHACA, NY—You wouldn’t think of the Cornell University Library YouTube page as a center of controversy. A quick look at his upload history shows that most videos on the page get less than 1,000 views, and his most popular video is a 2019 exploration of “Roman Emperors from Augustus to Constantine.”
So it came as a surprise late last week when word started to spread that the Cornell Library page had been wiped entirely and the account terminated. This meant losing 114 mostly academic lecture videos presented by academics on a wide variety of topics.
It’s unclear who or what reported the channel, but the reason for the temporary measure appears to have been nudity in at least one of the videos posted by the page three weeks ago. The subject of these videos was 1980s feminism, namely “The Feminist Sex Wars: A Retrospective by Gayle Rubin” and “Making a Lesbian Sex Magazine in the Age of Feminist Sex Wars”.
The two talks, held in late April, focused on the LGBTQ and feminist magazine “On Our Backs” and the first lesbian erotica magazine, which was the subject of a commemorative exhibit at the library. The complaint appears to have been filed over this latest video, which now has a content warning attached to the start of the video. There are at least three depictions of female nudity during the presentations, as examples of what “On Our Backs” was posting.
A statement from Cornell University called the complete erasure of the channel a “suspension”, though others called it a “termination”. It’s unclear if the deleted page was the result of a complaint from a real person or if the AI content moderation software flagged the video itself and started the process afterwards.
YouTube did not respond to The Voice of Ithaca with an official comment.
“The Cornell University Library’s YouTube suspension followed a scholarly academic exhibit that contained nudity,” the university said. “The university appealed the decision. After reviewing the matter, YouTube found that we had not violated its policies and restored the library account. »
“Anyone not interested in feminist politics would probably have fallen asleep.”
Susie Bright, the speaker who presented in the flagged video and the founder of “On Our Backs” magazine, addressed the situation as it unfolded in an article on her website, dated June 17.
“We don’t know if there was a complaint, or if this was just their usual harrowing of ever-changing terms and conditions,” Bright wrote. “Needless to say, the OOB the speakers were fully clothed and rather obsessed with our historical narrative. Anyone not interested in feminist politics would probably have fallen asleep.
On June 22, Bright updated the post to say the videos had been restored and the account reinstated, thanking her readers and others who had expressed anger at YouTube’s action, which she said could have helped influence the reversal. His original post also includes the following quote.
“I have to laugh, really, thinking about how the termination of Google over the past two weeks has erased all of Cornell’s lectures on higher math and plate tectonics, fashion design and human ecology, Classical Greek and MBA best practices – yes, EVERYTHING, has been ‘finished’ by Google because they and their AI moderators are so concerned about ‘sensitive content’,” Bright wrote. “They don’t I agree that feminist history is indeed a touchy subject.
Bright said she heard other similar stories about other universities following Cornell’s situation that Rutgers University’s Center for Genocide and Human Rights closed its Facebook page at some point after making reference to the Holocaust. In an interview, she expressed some optimism that so many people had taken notice of the situation and made their support known on social media, although a little jaded to have faced another episode of censorship. . But a career in feminist writing has given Bright extensive experience with such an issue.
“To have that groundswell, I think there’s an inflection point in corruption, incompetence and insensitivity in what it means to have moderation right now,” Bright said.