Herman goes on to explain how YouTube’s recent firing of PewDiePie, one of its biggest and top-earning celebrities, for his either real or fake alt-right leanings (does it matter? can we ever know?) exposes a cluster of truths about this platform, truths that I have been documenting since the site’s inception, and which both he and I understand as bellwethers for other “developing” social networks and the internet that has been built by and on them. Namely, that YouTube is a “performatively self-aware” political-economy (Truth #10); that is, a new kind of nation-state rooted in, and ruled by, self-aware performances about the rules and truths of its own conditions and practices; that is, self-aware productions about the conditions and experiences of social media labor, affect, ownership, and politics that also teeter on, or sit uncomfortably in, the true/fake divide.
For now, most of the biggest internet platforms are understood as venues for communication, expression and consumption. YouTube has given us a glimpse at what happens when users start associating social platforms with something more: livelihoods … With more than a billion users, YouTube has become not merely a platform but almost a kind of internet nation-state: the host of a gigantic economy and a set of cultures governed by a new and novel sort of corporation, sometimes at arm’s length and other times up close.