Harassment and cyberbullying have been problems for YouTube since day one, but the latest controversy is definitely a unique case. One Carlos Maza, in a tweet thread that’s now gone viral, explains how right-wing commentator Steven Crowder has, among other things, made “repeated, overt attacks on [his] sexual orientation and ethnicity.” Now, YouTube has publicly responded to those concerns and deemed the comments not out of line with the site’s policies.
Fittingly, The Verge has a good write up on the situation. Carlos Maza makes the video series Strikethrough for Vox, a sibling site to Verge. That’s the series Crowder has attempted to debunk in his commentary, alongside what he recently called his “harmless ribbing” in an apology video this week. It goes without saying Maza feels differently.
Crowder has routinely, over the course of years, made derogatory and mocking remarks about Maza’s sexuality and ethnicity when making videos attempting to debunk the Vox video series Strikethrough. Crowder also sells a T-shirt on his website, an image of which is also his featured Twitter banner photo, that features a homophobic slur with one letter omitted. Crowder supporters have since fashioned a version of the t-shirt specifically targeting Maza.
YouTube has a very clear harassment and cyberbullying policy (as it should), which lists “content that makes hurtful and negative personal comments/videos about another person” as “don’t post” content for creators. It has a recently-revised strikes system to ensure justice is served for those that violate these rules. It’s hard to see how these comments from Crowder, which included calling him a “lispy queer” and a “gay Mexican,” “don’t violate” YouTube’s policies.
The rules also prohibit content that “incites others to harass or threaten individuals on or off YouTube,” which has certainly happened in this case given that Maza has an inbox full of death threats.
“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,” the company said.
YouTube tried to further explain its decision in this case to Nilay Patel of The Verge, but it refused to go on-the-record, so Patel — rightly, in my view — refused to do the job of explaining their policies for them. Of course, this one situation is yet another of the many content controversies that have plagued YouTube for the last few years, and as has been the case with others, it will be interesting to see how YouTube’s tone changes as pressure builds. Google’s own employees are speaking out.