YouTube plans to ban thousands of white supremacist and extremist videos
YouTube announced plans Wednesday to block discriminatory content from its platform, which is expected to affect thousands of videos and channels that promote neo-Nazism and other discriminatory ideologies. The new policies come just one day after the video platform said that those ideologies do not violate its policies.
"The openness of YouTube's platform has helped creativity and access to information thrive," the company said in a blog post. "It's our responsibility to protect that, and prevent our platform from being used to incite hatred, harassment, discrimination and violence."
Under the new guidelines, videos that justify discrimination based on factors including age, gender, race, caste, religion, sexual orientation or veteran status will be prohibited. YouTube specifies that this includes videos that promote Nazism, as well as videos that deny well-documented violent events, like the Holocaust or the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary — both subjects of targeted hate speech on the platform.
While YouTube has taken steps over the years to limit users from finding extremist content, it now plans to ban it outright, removing both videos and channels that violate the new policies. The platform claims that it has reduced views on these types of videos by 80 percent since 2017, but until now, it has refused to remove the content completely.
YouTube also goes after medical conspiracists and flat-earthers in its blog post. It plans to expand its system to limit recommendations of content that spread harmful misinformation, which it refers to as "borderline videos."
According to YouTube, the program — which was launched in January — has already resulted in a decrease of views on these types of videos by 50 percent. It plans to recommend videos to users from more authoritative and legitimate news sources.
Creators that repeatedly violate the new hate speech policies will no longer be able to participate in the Partner program, which supplies channels with advertising revenue. This also includes other monetization features on the platform, such as Super Chat, a way for creators to earn money directly from subscribers through live video chat functions. As reported by BuzzFeed News, the feature was often used to help far-right and white nationalist channels earn thousands of dollars from racist commenters.
The announcement comes following a recent controversy surrounding Vox writer and video host Carlos Maza, whose Twitter thread documenting his abuse on the platform went viral last week. Maza said he faced racist and homophobic harassment from well-known right-wing commentator Steven Crowder, who has nearly four million YouTube subscribers and frequently attempts to "debunk" Maza's videos for Vox.
Last fall, Maza said his private phone number was released and he received hundreds of threatening text messages. Crowder's audience has also created custom merchandise specifically targeting Maza that read: "Carlos Maza is a f*g."
Maza said the harassment he's received from Crowder's fans "makes life sort of miserable" and has significantly affected his mental health.
YouTube responded to Maza's tweets Tuesday, saying that Crowder's videos targeting Maza do not violate its creator guidelines. Crowder has used phrases such as "lispy queer" and has repeatedly attacked Maza's Mexican heritage, which YouTube claimed did not qualify as harassment.
"Opinions can be deeply offensive, but if they don't violate our policies, they'll remain on our site," the platform tweeted. YouTube declined to comment on whether Crowder's channel would be affected by the new guidelines.
"YouTube's new anti-supremacy policy is a joke, a shiny prop meant to distract reporters and advertisers from the reality, which is that @YouTube doesn't actually enforce any of these documents," Maza tweeted Wednesday. Maza also emphasized that, while YouTube claims to support Pride month, it has repeatedly failed to support its LGBTQ creators by refusing to remove this type of harassment.
YouTube said it had suspended monetization for Crowder's channel, but as Maza pointed out, the majority of Crowder's revenue likely comes from selling merchandise to fans that find him through YouTube.
YouTube has faced a wave of criticism as social media sites are increasingly blamed for the spread of extremism and harassment online. The platform has previously banned specific creators, such as InfoWars host Alex Jones, but has struggled to keep misinformation from spreading on the platform.
The company said the new policies are taking effect immediately, and are expected to "ramp up" over the next few months.
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