6:15 AM PDT 6/26/2020 by l
On May 25, YouTube pulled the Michael Moore-produced environmental documentary Planet of the Humans, a few weeks after the provocateur launched the film for free on his highly trafficked YouTube channel. The tech giant cited a copyright infringement claim made by photographer Toby Smith over a four-second clip used in the controversial doc, which takes on some of the environmental movement's most beloved figures, including Al Gore and Bill McKibben, and explores big money's influence on sustainability efforts. Smith said in an interview with The Guardian that he made the claim because he disagreed with the film's thesis, and YouTube acquiesced.
Moore was not pleased. "The fact that some so-called leaders of our beloved environmental movement resorted to slandering and suppressing a movie that called them out for their failures, that warned the public that we were losing the battle against climate change because these 'leaders' believed capitalism and billionaires would save planet Earth, has set the movement back so many years," the producer tells THR.
Director Jeff Gibbs says he and Moore later won the right to use the footage, and after a maelstrom of bad PR for the platform, YouTube restored the doc to Moore's channel.
The removal of Planet of the Humans wasn't an isolated event. Over the past year, a number of docs that seem to challenge the business interests of multinational conglomerates have been muzzled, buried or simply neglected — including ones from Oscar winners and nominees like Moore. In nearly every case, the distributor was a Silicon Valley tech giant....................................
.......................“These platforms are so big that not being able to get your viewpoint on one of them effectively means that people probably don’t know the film exists,” says Patricia Aufderheide, founder of the Center for Media & Social Impact at American University and an expert on censorship.
Even in other genres, Hollywood is increasingly hesitant to antagonize foreign governments or corporate interests. Studios will avoid offending China at all costs thanks to its box office prowess. (Consider Disney staying out of the fray as its Mulan star Liu Yifei threw her support behind police using force to quash pro-democracy demonstrations last year.) But the chilling effect is more pronounced in the documentary community, which had previously relied on niche distributors. Now doc distribution is far more susceptible to the whims of the streaming giants because, in recent years, Netflix, Amazon and their rivals have become the most voracious buyers.................................
Moore took a swing at Fox without naming him. "The fact that anyone calling themself a filmmaker could take part in a censorship campaign, and then participate in such a dishonest and unhinged attack, is appalling and pathetic.”
Still, suppression may have its benefits. In the case of Planet of the Humans, the film now has more than 10.6 million views, including 8.6 million on YouTube, perhaps buoyed by the censorship outcry. Notes Gibbs, who also was a producer on Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11: "People do not like to be told they cannot see a film."
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