A lot of popular websites have begun increasing the amount of user content they censor. This post isn’t going to devolve into a freedom of speech rant. I believe that private companies have every right to decide what they will and will not host on their websites. This post is going to be discussing an interesting economic phenomenon related to censorship.
I think many of the people who have been pushing sites like Facebook, Twitter, Discord, and YouTube to more heavily scrutinize user content honestly believe that if those companies remove content, that content ceases to exist on the Internet. While the content ceases to exist on those websites, it can be uploaded elsewhere, which creates a business opportunity for competitors of those websites.
The users being censored will seek another way to publish their content. These users become a new potential customer base that didn’t previously exist. Entrepreneurial types can profit from this by attracting that customer base with an offer to exercise less scrutiny over user content.
Online censorship doesn’t remove content, it merely shifts revenue. While YouTube may stop hosting a video, one of its competitors may be willing to host it or an entrepreneur may decide to start a website that is geared towards hosting content that has been censored by YouTube. Whoever ends up hosting the censored content stands to make money that YouTube is no longer making.
This phenomenon is nothing new though. Censorship has always been good for business. Whenever a publication has refused to publish something, another publication either stepped in or was created.