YouTube is absolutely capable of keeping white nationalists from hijacking its platform, but is it even remotely interested in doing so? Sigh along with me as we review the site’s latest exploits.
YouTube’s most recent policy trainwreck was kicked off earlier this week by none other than its own CEO, Susan Wojcicki, who committed to keeping “controversial or even offensive” videos on the platform. Dull as these times are, I’m not sure more controversy and offence is precisely what everyone was clamouring for.
And if YouTube’s vow in January to de-emphasise so-called “borderline content” — the stuff that doesn’t break the rules, but only just barely — sounded like a crackdown, Wojcicki’s announcement this week was interpreted by some of the internet’s most odious users as a green light.
Among them, a member of the extended InfoWars family called War Room, which Motherboard reported yesterday was back on the site for around 17 hours. Its first upload? “Breaking! YouTube CEO says ‘Alex Jones’ and ‘Infowars Ban Is Over.’”
The War Room was banned (again) soon after Motherboard’s story was published, but as if to support the channel’s thesis, a number of far-right creators which were reportedly banned recently have had their channels reinstated.
Those bans reportedly affected prominent Charlottesville marcher James Allsup; VDARE, a white nationalist publication, links to which were recently circulated within the US Department of Justice; Austrian alt-right figure Martin Sellner, whose ties to the Christchurch shooter are being investigated; anonymous British “anti-mass immigration” pundit The Iconoclast; The American Identity Movement, the alias of Identity Evropa, which was banned from YouTube last year; and The Right Stuff, which according to Right Wing Watch, uploaded clips of its radio show which “replaced mentions of Jews with sound effects in an attempt to skirt YouTube’s rules against hate speech”. Many of these groups claim they were given to warning before having their channels expunged.
On Thursday, YouTube reinstated the channels of Sellner and The Iconoclast (and seemingly VDARE as well), telling Buzzfeed it had made the “wrong call” when it decided to take down Sellner and The Iconoclast.
On Friday, YouTube’s head of product policy communications Farshad Shadloo told the BBC that, despite these channels harbouring views that are “deeply offensive” to some, the site concluded they had not broken any community guidelines after it performed a “thorough review”.
Personally, I have no interest in any site or service giving quarter to white supremacists, but as the basic order of operations goes, a review of circumstances usually comes before the enactment of punitive measures. This is moderation 101, folks.
We’ve reached out to YouTube to learn who exactly fell asleep at the wheel here.