YouTube has finally unveiled the long-awaited revamp of its harassment policy — a process that the company undertook in earnest after an explosive controversy in June, whereby conservative commentator Steven Crowder engaged in regular homophobic and racist harassment of Vox journalist Carlos Maza. After some vacillation, YouTube demonetized Crowder’s channel, but did not take down any of his videos. Nevertheless, it was a trying moment for the company — during LGBTQ+ Pride Month — and one for which CEO Susan Wojcicki apologized (while defending the company’s decision).
Today, YouTube said it has honed its new harassment policies after meeting with creators as well as experts — including organizations that study online bullying, those that advocate for journalists, free speech proponents, and policy firms from across the political spectrum
There are several tenants to the new policy, as outlined in a company blog post. First, YouTube said that it will not only remove videos that explicitly threaten someone with violence, reveal confidential personal information, or encourage harassment (which it is already doing). Now, videos with veiled or implicit threats — including simulating violence or suggesting physical violence — will be taken down as well.
And in terms of language, YouTube said that it will no longer allow content that maliciously insults someone based on protected attributes — such as race, gender expression, or sexual orientation. This latter point would appear to apply to the Maza incident, given that Crowder referred to him as a “lispy queer” and “gay Mexican.” But Bloomberg reports that there are some caveats to this new rule — including in documentaries or scripted satires. It also doesn’t necessarily apply to clips where creators are discussing powerful people, including “high-profile government officials or CEOs of major multinational corporations.” YouTube will make case-by-base calls in these circumstances, Bloomberg reports.
YouTube will also wield its Partner Program — which enables monetization — to crack down on channels that repeatedly brush up against its harassment policies. Harassment could trigger YPP suspension, and if it continues, YouTube says it could subsequently issue strikes or terminate a channel entirely.
Finally, beyond videos that are classed as harassment, YouTube is also looking to clean up harassment in the comments section — a long-known hub for vile chatter. While YouTube says that it removed 16 million harassing comments in the third quarter of this year, it will also apply all of the aforementioned policy updates to comments as well, so it expects that number to increase. In its blog, YouTube also called out the numerous tools it furnishes for creators in order to filter comments, including the option to review before publishing — a feature that it turned on by default for most creators earlier this year.