JERUSALEM, ISRAEL — November 3, 2020 — Today I received a love note from YouTube.
“As you may know, our Community Guidelines describe which content we allow – and don’t allow – on YouTube. Your video Chris Mitchell, CBN, Jerusalem, Israel was flagged to us for review. Upon review, we’ve determined that it may not be suitable for all viewers and it has been placed behind an age restriction. If you believe this was a mistake, we’d like to hear from you. To appeal this age restriction, please submit this form. Our team will thoroughly review your appeal and will contact you again very soon.”
I watched the video again, thinking maybe I missed something. Nope. Chris Mitchell is about as honest and decent a person as I know, and one of the best journalists I know. I’ve known and admired Chris for years. He’s the long-time bureau chief of CBN in Jerusalem. He brought his family here during the height of the Second Intifada, jumping into and becoming part of Israeli society with two feet. Chris has been a highly respected pillar of the pro-Israel Christian community in Jerusalem for two decades, and widely followed by Christians throughout the world.
In the video that YouTube flagged, he prayed for Israel from within his apartment, in “bidud,” quarantine, after coming home to Israel, just as required for all Israelis returning from abroad. He noted challenges and threats Israel faces, quoted Psalms, and referenced prophesy related to the return of the Jewish people to Israel. Was it offensive that he’s listed as being in “Jerusalem, Israel?” I thought we were past that.
Dumbfounded, I clicked through to the “form” where I read the following notice.
“Before you appeal, please review your content to ensure that it abides by our Community Guidelines, in particular the section shown below. Provide supporting details in the box.”
YouTube was kind enough to post the section of its “Community Guidelines” which this video apparently breached. Yet in reading the actual text, I felt that I was seeing a bot created in the likeness of baseball great Yogi Berra who, among other things, was known for numerous comments, Berra-isms, that meant nothing. One could certainly be forgiven for wondering if perhaps Berra didn’t actually die in 2015, but went underground and has a major stock portfolio in YouTube. Hmm.
The offending “Community Standard,” sacredly quoted as if it were the US Constitution being argued in the Supreme Court, or an intense Talmudic debate reads, “Our team has reviewed your content, and we don’t think it’s in line with our guidelines. We age-restrict content when we don’t think it’s suitable for younger audiences. This means it will not be visible to users who are logged out, are under 18 years of age, or have Restricted Mode enabled. It also won’t be eligible for ads.”
What?!? The “Community Guideline” that’s violated is that they don’t think it’s “in line with our guidelines.” And that the offending video will not be available to “users who are logged out.” Thanks Yogi.
Never one not to acknowledge a good love note since Lisa passed me one in second grade, I lovingly replied to YouTube, hoping secretly that the Yogi Berra bot liked me too. “Come on, really? What about this is inappropriate? You have a Christian man praying for peace in Israel, mentioning some of the threats that Israel faces by name (Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran), quoting the ever-contentious Book of Psalms, and mentioning prophesy about children playing in the streets of Jerusalem. Please do tell me which of these is not for people under 18 so I am careful not to transgress again.”
Just like in second grade, I really wanted Lisa to like me (not in the modern social media sense), and so I naturally care about YouTube liking me and the videos I post, too.
Here’s the offending, age-inappropriate video. Please watch and share, but not while you’re logged out, and not with children under 18 in the room, God forbid. WARNING, be prepared to be inspired.
And if you’re interested and that’s inspiring, grab a seat and be prepared to be inspired to death. The wider program of which Chris Mitchell’s prayer was part, was the first ever, Global Prayer for Israel and Virtual Pilgrimage, a 12 plus hour live event of Christians praying for Israel from around the world. As inspiring as this surely is, I share it gingerly, at the risk of arousing the YouTube censors, please take some time to watch this, eight hours of the full 12 plus hour event, at your own risk.
Yogi, if that’s really you, I am sorry I offended you. You were a big part of my life growing up. Please don’t be angry at me, or at my friend Chris. Come visit us in Jerusalem; we can talk about it face to face. If miracles can happen here, they can happen anywhere. (Sorry, that’s Sinatra.) If you’re worried that someone will recognize you, just dress up like Jesus or Moses, or King David. You’ll fit right in.
Then again, if its not Yogi Berra and I am ranting about some silly algorithm that mysteriously flagged this video, I guess you’re not listening, and my appeal might be like talking to a wall. But hey, we do that here in Jerusalem, too.
So maybe I should just relax and, in the timeless words of Yogi Berra, “Take it with a grin of salt.”