Disappearing speech is not free

Last night I learned that (in what seems to be an increasingly common practice), another important news story has been taken down from YouTube.


This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by Georgia Television Co. d/b/a WSB-TV .
While I haven't seen the story because I can't, it apparently takes a close look (too critical a look?) at some of the practices of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).

To back up a bit, for some time now, I have been concerned about the radical animal rights philosophy being mainstreamed by HSUS. (I'm hardly alone.) Among other things, HSUS President Wayne Pacelle has said he wants to stop all hunting, and has spoken in favor of getting rid of all domestic animals:

We have no ethical obligation to preserve the different breeds of livestock produced through selective breeding. ...One generation and out. We have no problems with the extinction of domestic animals. They are creations of human selective breeding...Wayne Pacelle - Former National Director of Fund for Animals.
Under Pacelle, the HSUS hired notorious former Animal Liberation Front activist JP Goodwin, ("arrested and convicted for being the ringleader of a crew that vandalized fur retailers in multiple states during the 1990s") and placed him in a prominent position.

What annoys me the most about the HSUS, though, is not the pronouncements of its president or his hiring practices, but the fact that a lot of people still think the HSUS runs your local humane society, and that money given to them goes directly to animal care. Nothing could be further from the truth. HSUS is a PETA-style lobbying group, except they've got a wonderfully mainstream-sounding name and are therefore largely unburdened by the baggage that PETA's brand name carries.

Contrary to popular belief, they do not run your local animal shelter. While this is almost never reported in the news media, that's the central story on the video that has disappeared.

WSB-TV is a local ABC affiliate in Atlanta, and not long after their story on HSUS aired, all hell broke loose. Not only was the story was taken down from YouTube for "copyright" issues, but the written report was pulled from the affiliate's website:

A cone of silence continues to descend over the original WSB-TV story on HSUS fundraising practises that continues to support the rumor of the unleashing of the HSUS legal team on WSB-TV for their researched & fact-supported story.

As I previously mentioned, the original story been removed from the WSB-TV website. When I wrote to WSB-TV that I was saddened to see the story removed from their website, I received the following response. A response that has been sent out to others who wrote in to WSB-TV over their disappointment as seeing the story vanish from view.

"Thank you for writing to Talk2Us. We appreciate hearing that you were engaged by the report about HSUS. We put up and pull down stories as part of our daily editorial process. We are working on an additional story about HSUS. - WSB-TV"

Its an odd response. How often does a network pull a story after less than 24hrs where the viewing is accelerating and the comments are still being logged at a rapid pace. (mostly supporting the article I might add. I have copies of the comments, just in case this is contested) Furthermore, the Youtube copies of the WSB-TV video have all been taken down by WSB-TV request through a copyright claim. Funny thing though, at last my count there were 254 Youtube video links that were WSB-TV video. Yet the video that they have taken down is the one with the HSUS investigation? Considering the current evidence, I fear a much less accurate follow up. I hope to be wrong.

The author's claim about other WSB YouTube video links being untouched is absolutely correct; there are hundreds of WSB videos, and many of them are over a year old. If the issue is "copyright," why is it being enforced selectively, and only with a story considered sensitive by a gigantic lobbying organization?

There's also something funny going on with Twitter. An account belonging to a HSUS critic has been suspended for "suspicious activity":

David Martosko of the Center of Consumer Freedom has not been immune from the attacks either. Alot of people on Twitter were surprised to find that his accounts had been suspended for "Suspicious Activity", allegedly at the behest of the HSUS. Given that (a) his Twitter activity does not appear to violate Twitter terms of service and (b) the Humane Society Twitter users have the ability to block his messages if they don't want to see them, it is difficult to interpret this as anything but a message that the HSUS doesn't want anyone one Twitter to be able to see his messages.
I'm not very familiar with how Twitter works, but regardless of whether HSUS is responsible for taking down the guy's account, someone obviously is, and the fact that a guy as prominent as Martosko has lost his account hardly makes Twitter look like a reliable outfit.

A lot of people want to see the video of the report, and are asking questions. Some have tried to post copies at other sites, but they too are being taken down.

Amazingly, even the Google cache of the original text report has been removed:

It has been an interesting weekend since the May 14th release of the WSB-TV investigation of the Humane Society of the United States' fundraising practises and the use of those funds. The reaction of the Humane Society of the United States executive team and employees has been dramatic, if not over the top.

Apparently the HSUS executive has not been content to stop with the rumored unleashing the HSUS legal team on WSB-TV. This is a rumor supported by the swift removal of both the text, viewer comments and video from the WSB-TV website by the afternoon of Friday, May 15th and the subsequent removal of the text article from Google's cache system by Saturday, May 16th. The speed of this has been startling considering that images in Google's cache can linger for days, weeks and even years in some cases....

They're certainly right about that; the text of the story can be found only at web sites critical of the HSUS. (The text of the report follows this post.)

For its part, the HSUS has issued a response impugning the motives of its critics, including insinuations about their tax-exempt status:

WSB-TV reporters should have checked their sources when they relied on information from the widely discredited Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF). While organized as a 501(c) (3) charity, CCF is a front group for a wide range of animal abuse industries and other corporate interest that wish to conceal their attacks on public interest groups and government. The group's stock-in-trade involves taking aim at organizations that promote food safety, public health, or animal welfare. CCF has even attacked the National Cancer Institute, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for their anti-drunk driving and public health campaigns.
What groups like MADD have to do with this, I'm not sure.

What I'd like to know is why won't the HSUS simply let me watch the report and decide for myself?

Are they afraid of something?

I realize people disagree about animal rights, but there's a larger issue, and it isn't how accurate WSB's HSUS report may or may not be. It goes to the integrity of basic access to news reports. What's the point of having investigative journalism if people aren't allowed to see it? There's a legal doctrine called "fair comment," but how is anyone supposed to comment fairly on things that can't be seen?

As others have pointed out (in a post linked by Glenn Reynolds), this abuse of copyright law "is a kind of censorship."

I think it's a growing trend which doesn't bode well for the future of free speech.

MORE: Commenter Janj notes this excellent post with a connection to the video, but naturally, the videos keep getting pulled as fast as the're put up. (As one commenter there notes, it's like playing whack-a-mole.)

I hope you saw the report because it's gone. Gone from Yes Biscuit and the WSB-TV website. Gone from YouTube. Gone from Google.


In typical HSUS fashion, their response to any factual allegations seems to be to suppress the message and attack the messenger.

Now we hear that the HSUS is going to join Michael Vick in some sort of public relations ploy. Since HSUS is responsible for killing far more dogs than Michael Vick did, it is quite ironic. Even Michael Vick didn't kill newborn puppies.

Hmmm.... Wasn't Michael Vick the dog torturer just released? Isn't he in the Atlanta area? [Note: He played for the Atlanta Falcons, but lives in Virginia.] And now the plan is to have him work with the HSUS? (I find myself wondering aloud whether the censorship campaign might have something to do with the latest Michael Vick news.)

The video is here.

Watch it while you can!

MORE: Here's the embed; I don't know whether it will work or how long it will last.

MORE: More on the Pacelle Vick partnership in the New York Times. I find it sickening that they'd work with a man who electrocuted and hanged dogs that didn't want to fight.

But perhaps I'm not cynical enough.

Why it already appears that the teams are bidding for Michael Vick.

Is HSUS providing his ticket back?

Sounds profitable!

AND MORE: Michael Vick's release is of course huge news in Atlanta.

(Whether there's any connection between the spiked WSB story and the HSUS/Michael Vick alliance is of course pure speculation.)

From the original pulled WSB report, now available here.

Story Exposing HSUS Buried: Read Transcript

Where Humane Society Donations Really Go

Posted: 4:03 pm EDT May 14, 2009Updated: 4:20 pm EDT May 14, 2009

ATLANTA -- A Channel 2 investigation is looking into millions of dollars in donations given to the Humane Society of the United States.

A national consumer organization says the society solicits pet-lovers for money, but little to none of that money ever goes to help local shelters.

Critics tell Channel 2 Action News reporter Amanda Rosseter that this isn't just consumers misunderstanding who they are giving in to - but an organization actively misleading donors to get money.

"They do their marketing very well, that's for sure," said Trey Burley of PAWS Atlanta.

Critics say the national organization takes advantage of people who think they are giving to local shelters. DeKalb's "PAWS" shelter says there is no regular funding help from the $100 million HSUS budget.

"I think that some of the folks who donate to the national organization may be under the false pretense that that money is going to a local cause," said Burley.

While the HSUS does work to stop puppy mills, it also gets media coverage and donations doing it; but the puppies then go to local shelters who have to pay and care for them.

"They may initialize the resources for a rescue, but again the animals go to a shelter somewhere in the country," said Richard Rice, VP of the Atlanta Humane Society.

Critics say HSUS also takes advantage of high-profile events. After hurricane Katrina, HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle promised on national TV to reunite pets with their owners--and raised $34 million for the cause; but public disclosures of where that money went add up to less than $7 million.

The Louisiana attorney general launched an 18-month-long investigation, and it then ended it when HSUS offered to build the state a new shelter.

The HSUS annual report for 2007 showed $120 million in revenue, including $5.4 million just from online donors.

Then there's $112 million in expenses -- most of which appears to have gone to legislation for animal rights bills. The list includes raccoons, mice, wild horses, burros and primates.

The center for consumer freedom says all worthy causes, but HSUS shouldn't mislead to get money.

So where does all the money go?

"It goes to lobbying, it goes to political contributions, it does go to pay huge staff salaries and benefits," said David Marposko with Center for Consumer Freedom.

Channel 2 Action News went to a local HSUS meeting to find out. The two hour discussion was about activist plans and lobbying. The Georgia director for the HSUS agrees that's mostly what she does.

"I think that in all of our literature, it is very explicit as to what our campaigns are and what we are doing," said Cheryl McAuliffe, Georgia Director for HSUS. "We help where we can and focus on our programs, which are national and international."

McAuliffe said there are just too many local shelters to help.

"I always tell people, contribute to your local shelter first," said McAuliffe.

When asked how much her budget is for the state of Georgia, McAuliffe said she didn't have a budget and neither did the other states. McAuliffe said all money is controlled from headquarters in Washington, D.C.

posted by Eric on 05.23.09 at 09:33 AM


WSB is a liberal media outlet owned by the Cox sisters, whose father was the Democrat Presidential candidate in 1920. These limosine liberals would never tank one of their own, especially if it involves deception, lying, manipulation, and good old fashion larceny. Don't expect any Cox news outlet to be any less unethical than the rest of the lefty legacy media. The HSUS is exactly the kind of malfunctioning feel-good organization the loony left idolizes. The Atlanta Journal & Constitution, a Cox fishwrapper, has long been unfit to read. Once said to "cover Dixie like the dew", the AJC is now called "the urinal and constipation", an appropriated analogy to its journalistic decline. We love animals at our house, right next to the mashed potatoes.

twolaneflash   ·  May 23, 2009 11:55 AM

Tom Tancredo - giving a speech on immigration at a university had his speech "canceled" by thugs who shouted him down and broke windows.

1920s and 30s Germany has come to America.

M. Simon   ·  May 23, 2009 5:21 PM

You're right, the smart thing would have been for HSUS to ignore the news report but since they felt the need to censor and everyone jumped on it people like me are reading about exactly what they stand for for the first time. Thanks HSUS, now that I know I've been had, I'll make sure it doesn't happen again.

Tokin42   ·  May 24, 2009 7:37 AM

Might be interesting to see what Neal Boortz has to say about this. WSB radio is his home station.

SDN   ·  May 24, 2009 8:36 AM

Nice blog here.

I have been a supporter of the HSUS 17 out of the 32 years I have been on this earth. Reading this article, I became sickened and I was moved to write to the HSUS. I knew they didn't support my local animal shelters, and I also know that one of the local shleters here is all about making money and not enough about the animals, themselves. I wonder...is there any organization for animals out there that has no ULTERIOR motives? Is there an organization that is for the animals and their rights 100 percent of the time?

Fire   ·  May 24, 2009 11:10 AM

Vicki Hearne took down HSUS as a sham in her book _Bandit: Dossier of a Dangerous Dog_ long ago.

Animal activists are not nice people.

rhhardin   ·  May 26, 2009 2:50 AM

I think the HSUS story needs to be spread far and wide. Decent people who care about animals have been misled for too long. For real animal lovers, they should go to www.naiaonline.org for a national organization that cares about real animal welfare. Animal lovers will lose unless people realize the difference between animal rights (control of YOUR right to own animals) and animal welfare (focus on responsible animal ownership and the well being of the animal).

Laurella Desborough   ·  May 26, 2009 1:23 PM

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