Creators who document extremism have been impacted by YouTube’s new plan to remove thousands of videos that espouse harmful ideologies like Nazism and white supremacy.
YouTube rolled out the policy on Wednesday, less than 24 hours after publicizing its widely-criticized decision that conservative commentator Steven Crowder’s repeated reference to Vox journalist Carlos Maza as a “lispy queer” and “anchor baby” wasn’t a violation of its hate speech policies. The video giant’s new plan specifically targets “videos alleging that a group is superior in order to justify discrimination, segregation, or exclusion,” and also bans videos denying events like the Holocaust and the Sandy Hook massacre occurred.
Additionally, the new policy lets YouTube remove creators from its Partner Program if they “repeatedly brush up against our hate speech policies.”
While YouTube didn’t say the Crowder/Maza decision and the new policy are related, the timing of its announcement nevertheless linked the two. And now, citing this new policy, YouTube has deleted videos, terminated channels, and removed from the Partner Program creators like Ford Fischer and Scott Alsop. Neither creator engages in extremist rhetoric, but both document it for educational purposes — such as recording pro-white supremacy rallies.
Fischer, who runs the channel News2Share (28k subscribers), was booted from the Partner Program Wednesday. As a result, all of his videos were demonetized. Fischer is a journalist whose footage has been included in documentaries like PBS and ProPublica’s Documenting Hate, The New York Times’ How an Alt-Right Leader Lied to Climb the Ranks, and Deeyah Khan’s Emmy-winning White Right: Meeting the Enemy. In a Twitter thread, he explained YouTube had flagged only two of his roughly 1,000 videos: one where he filmed antifa activists confronting a Holocaust denier, and one where filmed a speech by anti-Semite Mike Peinovich.
“While unpleasant, this documentation is essential research for history,” he wrote, noting that this exact footage of Peinovich was used in Documenting Hate, which Fischer associate produced.
YouTube’s notice to Fischer says he can appeal if he feels YouTube has erroneously demonetized his content. Fischer posted the notice in full, revealing that anyone else who receives it — including people who posted content espousing extremist views they believe in — can remove that content and reapply to the Partner Program after 30 days.
Independent content creators already struggle with being paid for their labor, and demonetization has been a huge detriment – but applied video-by-video. Removing it from the entire channel is a huge blow to someone like me.@YouTube, do better.
— Ford Fischer (@FordFischer) June 5, 2019
At press time, Fischer’s channel is still demonetized.
As for Allsop, he’s a Cambridge graduate who works as head of faculty and humanities at the British School of Bucharest. He also runs On This Day, a historical podcast. He used his YouTube channel, Mr. Allsop History (16k), to archive historical clips for educational purposes. His channel was also impacted Wednesday, but it wasn’t demonetized — it was terminated.
YouTube have banned me for ‘hate speech’, I think due to clips on Nazi policy featuring propaganda speeches by Nazi leaders. I’m devastated to have this claim levelled against me, and frustrated 15yrs of materials for #HistoryTeacher community have ended so abruptly.@TeamYouTube
— Mr Allsop History (@MrAllsopHistory) June 5, 2019
As so many people are asking, this is the banned channel. It featured around 120 historical clips I collated for teachers and students, covering various aspects of world history over the past 1000 years. The Nazi material made up around 10% of all videos. https://t.co/9LLVkuTGEq
— Mr Allsop History (@MrAllsopHistory) June 5, 2019
Allsop’s original tweet garnered more than 12k likes and 4.5k retweets — and he says it’s the swell of attention that ultimately ended up getting his channel restored. Late Wednesday night, he tweeted that YouTube had reversed its decision, and his channel was back in place, although only around 100 of his 120 clips were fully accessible. (One video had been removed, and several had “flags,” he said. It’s not clear exactly what kind of flags, but it’s likely the videos were age-restricted.)
He tweeted again later to say all 120 clips had been restored, and his channel is back to normal.
It’s absolutely vital that @YouTube work to undo the damage caused by their indiscriminate implementation as soon as possible. Access to important material is being denied wholesale as many other channels are left branded as promoting hate when they do nothing of the sort. 2/2
— Mr Allsop History (@MrAllsopHistory) June 6, 2019
While YouTube’s new policy affected documentarians like Fischer and Allsop, it also successfully demonetized or deleted the channels of a number of prominent far-right, white supremacist, and Nazi figures. BuzzFeed News reports those demonetized include white nationalist James Allsup, Austrian fascist and Nazi Martin Sellner, white nationalist Marcus Follin, and Red Ice TV, a Swedish white nationalist group channel that’s run afoul of YouTube before.
Red Ice TV had an opinion about that.
Interesting that 5 of the 7 channels this BuzzFeed reporter lists are not American in origin. Keep that in mind. YouTube, an American company, who obviously has gotten orders from the top not to allow another 2016 election are thwarting foreign channels to lessen impact in the US https://t.co/NuMOPSeU5C
— Red Ice TV 🛡 (@redicetv) June 6, 2019
Those who’ve reportedly had videos removed include Vice Media co-founder and far-right commentator Gavin McInnes and former European Parliament candidate Mark Meechan, who’s perhaps best known for posting a video showcasing how he taught his dog to do a Nazi salute when Meechan asked if the dog wanted to “gas the Jews.” (He was later convicted of a hate crime and fined £800 — around $1,000 U.S.)
Channels that were entirely removed include Nazi outlets Thulean Perspective, The Great Order, and Xurious, BuzzFeed reports.