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YouTube finally updates harassment policies to protect LGBT people after months of controversy

Lily Wakefield December 12, 2019
YouTube harassment policies

YouTube policies will now ban harassment based on "race, gender expression, or sexual orientation". (Smith Collection/Gado/Getty)

YouTube has announced that it will finally update its harassment policies to better protect users from discrimination based on race, gender identity or sexual orientation, after months of criticism.

YouTube’s harassment rules made headlines in June when the platform insisted that a right-wing creator who targeted a Vox journalist with anti-gay abuse did not violate the Google-owned company’s hate speech policies.

Carlos Maza, who appears in news site Vox’s video content, spoke out publicly about persistent abuse from Steven Crowder, a right-wing YouTuber with 3.8 million subscribers.

In videos spanning several years, Crowder attacked Maza with racist and homophobic language, such as calling him a “lispy queer”, a “little queer” and a “gay Mexican”. In some of the videos, Crowder can be seen wearing a t-shirt bearing the slogan “socialism is for f*gs”.

YouTube reviewed Crowder’s content, but said in a statement at the time: “We take allegations of harassment very seriously–we know this is important and impacts a lot of people… while we found language that was clearly hurtful, the videos as posted don’t violate our policies.”

Maza called the decision an “absolutely bats**t policy that gives bigots free license.”

Carlos Maza says he has suffered persistent racist and homophobic abuse from Steven Crowder
Carlos Maza says he suffered persistent racist and homophobic abuse from Steven Crowder.

Six months later, YouTube Vice President Matt Halprin has finally released a statement on how the company will be updating these harassment policies.

According to the statement, YouTube “will no longer allow content that maliciously insults someone based on protected attributes such as their race, gender expression, or sexual orientation. This applies to everyone, from private individuals, to YouTube creators, to public officials.”

It will also ban “veiled or implied threats”, including “content simulating violence toward an individual or language suggesting physical violence may occur.”

In the case of repeated discrimination, like the harassment suffered by Maza, the platform said it will tighten YouTube Partner Program (YPP) policies.

This means that as well as dealing with individual videos, if a creator repeatedly harasses someone they will lose the ability to make money through YouTube, will be issued with strikes and could eventually have their channel terminated.

Halprin added: “As we make these changes, it’s vitally important that YouTube remain a place where people can express a broad range of ideas, and we’ll continue to protect discussion on matters of public interest and artistic expression.

“We also believe these discussions can be had in ways that invite participation, and never make someone fear for their safety.”

But Maza hit back at the announcement, saying that “YouTube loves to manage PR crises by rolling out vague content policies they don’t actually enforce”.

He added: “Demonetization doesn’t work on YouTube. It never has. People like Crowder make money through merch sales and direct donations, not AdSense.

“As long as YouTube gives them a free platform to find new customers, they’ll keep breaking the rules… These policies only work if YouTube is willing to take down its most popular rule-breakers.

“And there’s no reason, so far, to believe that it is.”

More: Carlos Maza, gender identity, Google, harassment policies, Matt Halprin, race, sexual orientation, social media, Steven Crowder, YouTube

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