After a lengthy period of opting not to take action, YouTube has de-monetized the account of right-wing online personality Steven Crowder for using anti-gay slurs in attacking Vox writer Carlos Maza. It did attach a caveat to the action, however.
When the issue surfaced via Maza’s account of the events, YouTube said it viewed Crowder’s speech and activity — including calling Maza a “lispy queer” and offering “Socialism is for F-gs” T-shirts via his channel — as part of a “debate.” A day later, the video platform had apparently shifted its thinking.
“We came to this decision because a pattern of egregious actions has harmed the broader community and is against our YouTube Partner Program policies,” the company’s official Twitter handle tweeted on Wednesday. It then added in a follow-up tweet, “To clarify, in order to reinstate monetization on this channel, he will need to remove the link to his T-shirts.”
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The sanctions set off a storm of outrage in the YouTube community and in the already bifurcated political camps on social media. Conservative voices decried the action as a free-speech violation and pointed to other accounts being de-monetized, while liberals spoke out about what they described as backtracking and foot-dragging by YouTube.
In addressing the move, YouTube pointed to its policy on community standards, noting that it had been updated so that Nazi videos or videos denying the Holocaust or the Newtown school shootings would be deleted.
YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, in her remarks at the company’s Brandcast event for advertisers over the past several years, has sought to reassure jittery brands that their messages won’t end up placed next to objectionable content. That goal, though, is balanced by the drive to continue increasing overall viewing and scale, which means being more open to a full range of content passing through the platform.
“Living up to our responsibility is my No. 1 priority,” Wojcicki said at this year’s presentation. “And we are making significant progress. My leadership team and I — along with thousands of people at YouTube — are laser-focused on this.”
Tech firms are operating under the watchful gaze of politicians, regulators and activists as they seek to balance the freedom of users to post as they please with activity that can fairly be considered hateful, bullying or manipulative. Twitter’s Jack Dorsey and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg are among the prominent leaders in the tech sector to voice a preference for more laissez-faire governance of their platforms. Seemingly every day, though, such stances are put to the test.
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