YouTube CEO apologises to LGBTQ community over Steven Crowder’s anti-gay slurs

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YouTube’s CEO has issued an apology over the handling of Steven Crowder’s anti-gay slurs – but not his continued presence on the platform.

Carlos Maza, host of the Vox news series Strikethrough, detailed the persistent abuse he has faced from the commentator.

In response to Mr Maza’s complaints, YouTube defended Mr Crowder’s comments by saying the criticisms were an example of debate, rather than harassment.

Susan Wojcicki has now acknowledged that the firm’s decision was likely to be ‘hurtful’ to the LGBTQ community, but that it stands by its decision not to ban him.

The furore surrounding the move has fuelled the debate over competing rights to free speech and protection from extremist content.

Ms Wojcicki has admitted she has not reviewed all of the clips that have attracted complaints, according to reports in Bloomberg.

She did watch some of them, however, and was involved in the decision to allow Mr Crowder to continue using the platform, it’s reported.

Speaking at the Code Conference in Scottsdale, Arizona, yesterday Ms Wojcicki said: ‘The decision we made was very hurtful to the LGBTQ community. That was not our intention.’

She also stated that videos have to be shown to be malicious to break the site’s rules, adding: ‘For right or wrong, malicious is a high bar for us.’

YouTube removed Mr Crowder’s ability to make money from his videos last week after, as backlash continued to grow following its defence of keeping the channel live despite it containing homophobic content.   

On Wednesday, May 5, YouTube announced that it would suspend ads from the channel until Mr Crowder – who counts more than 3.8 million subscribers on the platform – removes a link to his merchandise store, where he sells T-shirts with slogans such as ‘Socialism is for F*gs.’ 

The firm said it arrived at this decision after it determined Mr Crowder’s channel had exhibited a ‘pattern of egregious actions’ against the broader YouTube community.

YouTube also determined that the channel violated its Partner Program policies, though the firm didn’t say the specific policies Mr Crowder violated.  

‘In the past, we felt our responses to some of these situations were slow and didn’t always address our broader community’s concerns,’ YouTube wrote in a blog post on Wednesday, June 5. 

‘Our ultimate goal here is to streamline our response so we can make better, faster decisions and communicate them clearly.’ 

The decision comes a day after Mr Maza shared a compilation video of clips from Mr Crowder’s show wherein he can be heard attacking the Vox host, calling him a ‘gay Mexican,’ ‘little queer,’ ‘lispy sprite’ and a ‘token Vox gay atheist sprite.’

‘These videos make a target of ridiculous harassment, and it makes my life sort of miserable,’ Mr Maza wrote in a tweet.

‘I waste a lot of time blocking abusive Crowder fanboys, and this s*** derails your mental health. 

‘…This has been going on for years, and I’ve tried to flag this s*** on several occasions. But YouTube is never going to actually enforce its policies. 

‘Because Crowder has 3 million YouTube subscribers, and enforcing their rules would get them accused of anti-conservative bias,’ he added. 

After Mr Maza detailed his situation publicly, he said he began receiving an influx of hateful messages from Mr Crowder’s viewers.  

YouTube’s community guidelines state that it prohibits ‘content that is deliberately posted in order to humiliate someone, makes hurtful and negative personal comments/videos about another person, or that incites others to harass or threaten individuals on or off YouTube.’

Additionally, YouTube’s hate speech policy bars ‘content promoting violence or hatred against individuals or groups’ for characteristics including ethnicity, race and sexual orientation. 

The site states that users also cannot use stereotypes that ‘incite or promote hatred based on any’ of these attributes, whether it be through speech, text, or imagery promoting ‘these stereotypes or treating them as factual.’

Despite this, in a response to Mr Maza’s tweets, YouTube said that Mr Crowder’s videos would be allowed to remain on the site. 

‘Our teams spent the last few days conducting an in-depth review of the videos flagged to us, and while we found language that was clearly hurtful, the videos as posted don’t violate our policies,’ YouTube said in a statement. 

‘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 within the scope of our policies. 

‘Opinions can be deeply offensive, but if they don’t violate our policies, they’ll remain on our site,’ the firm added.  

Earlier this week, Mr Crowder posted a video arguing he was ‘not in violation of policy guidelines.’ 

In an extended statement to Gizmodo, a YouTube spokesperson said Mr Crowder didn’t instruct his viewers to harass Mr Maza on other platforms. 

As a result, the firm determined that Mr Crowder’s videos were meant ‘not to harass or threaten, but rather to respond to the opinion.’ 

Many have since pointed out the hypocrisy of YouTube’s ongoing LGBT Pride Month campaign. 

YouTube’s main Twitter account currently features the site’s logo stylised to look like the LGBT flag, as well as a banner image for Pride Month. 

Following YouTube’s statement, Mr Maza’s employer has called on YouTube to do more to protect LGBT users. 

‘By refusing to take a stand on hate speech, they allow the worst of their communities to hide behind cries of “free speech” and “fake news,” all while increasingly targeting people with the most offensive and odious harassment,’ Vox Media Publisher Melissa Bell said in a statement. 

‘They encourage their fans to follow suit and we now see our reporters and creators consistently targeted by the worst abuse online, with no remedy or ability to protect themselves.’  

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