Less than 24 hours after determining that far-right buffoon Steven Crowder’s anti-gay harassment of Vox journalist Carlos Maza was basically fine, YouTube has reversed course—or, more accurately, has continued to fishtail around the road. This afternoon, the platform announced that it has now decided to demonetize Crowder’s channel, but for larger, vaguer reasons.
In a widely shared Twitter thread last week, Maza detailed harassment Crowder heaped upon him over the course of years. Masa recounted how Crowder used his YouTube channel to call him a “lispy queer,” a “gay Mexican,” and an “anchor baby.” This had the additional effect of presenting Crowder’s 3.8 million subscribers with a target for anonymous abuse. After Masa’s personal information was distributed online, Masa says he was bombarded with hundreds of texts about Crowder.
Sadly, many aspects of Maza’s tale of YouTube-enabled aren’t unique. Unlike most, however, Maza’s story went viral, and he ended up getting a personal response from the platform.
After almost a full week of Maza’s story spreading, YouTube determined that, well, Crowder was within his rights to continue to do what he’d been doing:
(2/4) 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. We’ve included more info below to explain this decision:
— TeamYouTube (@TeamYouTube) June 4, 2019
In a coordinated PR move, YouTube tried to distract from this bizarre decision by going for an easy win today, announcing now, 14 years after launching, it would ban content that directly supported Nazi ideology. Incredibly, its vague plans to remove an undisclosed number of videos and/or channels did not earn the company the brownie points it so rabidly sought. And while YouTube’s new hate speech policy ostensibly covered nationality, country of origin, and sexuality (broadly, the three identity categories used to bully Maza) the company did not respond to questions about whether or not Crowder’s videos would be among those pulled down.
Just hours after rolling out what was supposed to be a bold step forward towards a safer YouTube, however, the official Team YouTube account “updated” the public with a new decision about Crowder that will please no one.
Update on our continued review–we have suspended this channel’s monetization. We came to this decision because a pattern of egregious actions has harmed the broader community and is against our YouTube Partner Program policies. More here: https://t.co/VmOce5nbGy
— TeamYouTube (@TeamYouTube) June 5, 2019
“Update on our continued review–we have suspended this channel’s monetisation,” tweeted YouTube on Wednesday. “We came to this decision because a pattern of egregious actions has harmed the broader community and is against our YouTube Partner Program policies.”
Ah good, a solution which is at once cowardly and unsatisfying—and relieves a bullying dipshit of direct responsibility. After all, he didn’t break the rules, he just exhibited “a pattern of egregious actions” that “harmed the broader community” incidentally! As punishment, Crowder will seemingly be allowed to continue uploading videos that attack individuals on the basis of heritage and sexual orientation and make money through his own sponsorships and merchandise sales, losing out only on the opportunity to use the platform’s baked-in ad opportunities. Imagine, if you will, a lazier half-measure than this.
Really, try it.
To clarify, in order to reinstate monetization on this channel, he will need to remove the link to his T-shirts.
— TeamYouTube (@TeamYouTube) June 5, 2019
Perfect. So after a week of public outcry over a clearly unfair scenario which breaks YouTube’s own rules, the company has affirmed it will only let Crowder run its ads if and when he stops selling a shirt with an anti-gay slur he’s been peddling for three years—among other, unspecified reforms.
None of these issues are new. None of these solutions are good. And as has become customary, the only reason YouTube is responding at all is because a critical mass of people are wondering just what the fuck is going on. Unfortunately, the most confused party in this whole mess seems to be YouTube itself.
YouTube’s moderation policy works exactly the way everyone assumes it does: The company does the bare minimum when enough angry people are threatening to knock its doors down. Which is to say it’s always doing a bad job, and never for the right reasons.