The Conundrum of YouTube: Harassment or Free Speech
By: Jessica Bedussi
During VidCon, one of YouTube creator’s biggest events, much of the online conversation surrounds the platform’s unwillingness to better protect its creators from hate.
Carlos Maza, a Vox journalist who has been the victim of alt-right YouTuber Steven Crowder for two years, recently got the attention of Twitter and YouTube after posting a supercut of the racist and homophobic comments targeted to him.
Ultimately, YouTube demonetized Crowder but allowed him to keep all videos up releasing a statement that said, “while we found language that was clearly hurtful, the videos as posted don’t violate our policies.” This sparked more outrage as the channel’s harassment policy clearly defines hate speech as “promoting violence or hatred against individuals based on...sexual orientation, race, etc.”
The state of hate on YouTube isn’t something that was born accidentally. In 2012, YouTube decide to chase after watch-time rather than views setting a goal of getting users to view 1 billion hours of video a day. This meant pushing as much content as possible and altering the algorithms. Features like recommendations and autoplay pushed viewers who watched a conspiracy or hate-filled video were recommended even more extreme videos and creators like Steven Crowder gained millions of subscribers.
Today, social media platforms are dancing a fine line of what constitutes as censorship versus safety. Will YouTube protect creators and community managers from abuse or will platforms continue to value engagement and money over safety?
Listen to the most recent episode of Reply All for an in-depth look into Maza’s story.