False Equivalence

I have read that the CEO of YouTube recently compared that video site to a library “because of the sheer amount of video that we have” and “ability for people to learn and look up information.”

This comparison is not quite flawless.

Let’s imagine a library that operated the way YouTube does, shall we?

Most of the materials in this library would be submitted by amateurs. The glossier submissions would come from major media corporations promoting their products. Very few of these submissions would be reviewed for quality or even legality before they were added to the collection. The library would make money by selling ad space around the materials, even inserting advertising at the front of the materials. All the while, this same hypothetical library would be collecting data about its patrons and selling it to the highest bidder. Oh and of course the public, despite supplying most of what made this library’s collection interesting, would own 0% of this library, which would be a profit-seeking enterprise owned by one of the richest corporations in the world.

It would, in other words, be a library without curators, without ethical or factual standards, shoddily catalogued, riddled with commercialism, dedicated to eroding the privacy of its users, and accountable not to those users but to wealthy investors.

A mass of data is not a library, any more than a stack of dictionaries equal a literature.




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