Speaking in public for the first time since the updation ofthe company policy on harassment and hate speech, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki apologised for the hurt caused due to hateful content on the platform, but defended the hosting of such content.
In a conversation with Recode Senior Correspondent Peter Kafka at the 2019 Code Conference, Wojcicki said, “When we look at harassment and we think about harassment there are a number of things we look at. First of all, we look at the context. Was this video dedicated to harassment or was it a one-hour political video that had racial slurs to it? Those are very different kinds of videos.”
In the past two years in particular, YouTube has been repeatedly criticised for failing to take appropriate action on hate speech and racist comments on the platform. The latest controversy erupted over its refusal to take down content uploaded by conservative video producer Steven Crowder.
On May 30, US news website Vox.com’s Carlos Maza complained on Twitter about allegedly racist and homophobic material that Crowded had posted on YouTube about him.
Stating that, “Every single video [uploaded by Steven Crowder] has included repeated, overt attacks on my sexual orientation and ethnicity,” Maza said, “I’ve been called an anchor baby, a lispy queer, a Mexican, etc. These videos get millions of views on YouTube. Every time one gets posted, I wake up to a wall of homophobic/racist abuse on Instagram and Twitter.”
Explaining that he wasn’t angry with Crowder, Maza said he was upset instead that YouTube had failed to weed out content like this, and that despite claims the company did not actually care about its LGBT content creators.
Responding on June 5 to Maza’s complaints, YouTube said it had conducted “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.” The video streaming company further said that it had suspended the monetisation of Crowder’s channel, but would not take his videos down.
The decision faced immense backlash from the LGBT community but was defended by Wojcicki.
The CEO also said that that reviewing content before it is uploaded on the site was not on the cards. “I don’t think that’s the right answer,” Wojcicki said, “I think we would lose a lot of voices. [Besides,] what are the factors that you’re [using to] determine that? How are you deciding who is getting to be on the platform and have speech and who’s not?”
The company, will, however, the executive added, penalise videos that violate guidelines on hate speech and racism by cutting monetisation and restricting access to distribution channels.