After Facebook extended its content policies this past March to redefine its approach to “hateful content,” YouTube has joined in by taking additional steps to combat the rise of hate speech on its platform. The website announced yesterday that it would be banning videos that not only constitute hate speech and neo-nazi ideology, but also conspiracy and hoax videos such as those denying Sandy Hook and the Holocaust. For many though, these new content policies still aren’t enough.
YouTube’s official announcement stated the following: “We’re taking another step in our hate-speech policy by specifically prohibiting videos alleging that a group is superior in order to justify discrimination, segregation, or exclusion based on qualities like age, gender, race, caste, religion, sexual orientation, or veteran status.”
The statement specified that “this would include, for example, videos that promote or glorify Nazi ideology, which is inherently discriminatory. Finally, we will remove content denying that well-documented violent events, like the Holocaust or the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, took place.”
A number of far right YouTube creators have already taken to Twitter to complain about the new content policies, citing both demonetization and deleted videos:
Looks like new YouTube rules have kicked off a new crackdown that goes beyond Steven Crowder. White nationalists James Allsup and "The Golden One" say they've also been demonetized, while Gavin McInnes says he's had a video deleted. pic.twitter.com/awbR3EF9M7
— Will Sommer (@willsommer) June 5, 2019
Though demonetizing and removing hateful content strategy may prove to be a step in the right direction, many channels remain standing despite the ideals they promote. And for many of them, their primary financial stream comes from off-site ventures such as Patreon, Subscribestar (as outlined in The Golden One’s tweet above), or merchandise.
Carlos Maza, a journalist for Vox who’s been a long time target of homophobic attacks from alt-right YouTuber Steven Crowder, pointed out that though Crowder’s channel may have been demonetized by YouTube’s updated content policies, Crowder still profits off of his channel through using it as a platform to sell “Socialism is For F*gs” t-shirts:
Demonetizing 👏 doesn't 👏 work. 👏
Abusers use it as proof they're being "discriminated" against. Then they make millions off of selling merch, doing speaking gigs, and getting their followers to support them on Patreon.
The ad revenue isn't the problem. It's the platform.
— Carlos Maza (@gaywonk) June 5, 2019
Maza initially called out YouTube last week for providing Crowder with a podium for his continued harassment, though the site responded to his concerns by stating “while we found language that was clearly hurtful, the videos as posted don’t violate our policies,” adding that “opinions can be deeply offensive, but if they don’t violate our policies, they’ll remain on our site.”
(3/4) As an open platform, it’s crucial for us to allow everyone–from creators to journalists to late-night TV hosts–to express their opinions w/in the scope of our policies. Opinions can be deeply offensive, but if they don’t violate our policies, they’ll remain on our site.
— TeamYouTube (@TeamYouTube) June 4, 2019
Earlier this week, YouTube updated their site with a rainbow icon in celebration of Pride Month – but with the continued harassment of LGBTG+ users that persists amongst the community, and yesterday’s lax update to the site’s content guidelines, many denounced the platform for its superficial allyship:
Thanks for this. Loving all those pride flags decking the entirety of YouTube by the way, not exploitative or hypocritical at all https://t.co/1aixWsvUhY
— Lindsay Ellis (@thelindsayellis) June 5, 2019
— Anthony Oliveira (@meakoopa) June 5, 2019
Included amongst critics were a number of Google employees (which owns YouTube), who banded together to create the online coalition Googlers Against Hate, dismissing the site’s contradictory content policies:
Despite YouTube capitalizing on Pride as a marketing campaign, it's clear they have no issue making policy decisions that harm LGBTQ people like @gaywonk. We have #NoPrideInYT pic.twitter.com/onD1cARt98
— Googlers Against Hate (@EthicalGooglers) June 5, 2019
YouTube responded to the criticism last night, their statement indicates that little has changed: “If we were to take all potentially offensive content down, we’d be losing valuable speech […] In order to be considered for reinstatement, all relevant issues with [Steven Crowder’s channel] need to be addressed, including any videos that violate our policies, as well as things like offensive merchandise.”
YouTube does seem to be cracking down on alternate, harassment-based revenue streams such as Crowder’s homophobic t-shirts, until the site starts taking what they dub “potentially offensive content” more seriously, the fact remains that YouTube is still providing these hateful voices with a home.