In yet another PR blow to Google’s video-sharing platform, YouTube chief executive officer Susan Wojcicki has been forced to defend the company’s decision to allow conservative commentator Steven Crowder to remain on the site.
Wojcicki’s comments come a week after an investigation determined that the right-wing poster boy’s treatment of Vox host Carlos Maza was not in violation of YouTube’s policies, this despite Crowder’s regular use of homophobic and racist slurs. Crowder boasts a following of more than 3.8 million subscribers.
“The challenge is when we get an allegation like this we take it very seriously,” Wojcicki told Recode’s Peter Kafka at the Code Conference on Monday. “We need to enforce those policies consistently because if we were not to enforce them consistently, there would be millions of other people saying what about this video, what about this video, what about this video? If you look at the content on the internet, you look at rap songs, late night talks, a lot of humor, you can find a lot of racial slurs or sexist comments. If we were to take down every video …”
Maza, a video producer on Vox’s “Strikethrough,” took to Twitter last week to accuse YouTube of allowing abuse, use of homophobic slurs and widespread bullying to continue unchecked on its platform.
“This has been going on for years, and I’ve tried to flag this shit on several occasions,” he wrote. “But YouTube is never going to actually enforce its policies. Because Crowder has 3 million YouTube subscribers, and enforcing their rules would get them accused of anti-conservative bias.”
In another post, Maza lamented, “YouTube has decided not to punish Crowder after he spent two years harassing me for being gay and Latino. I don’t know what to say.”
Amid heightened criticism, YouTube has made updates to its hate-speech policy of late, with those changes set to see the removal of thousands of videos advocating neo-Nazism, white supremacy and other extremist ideologies.
Wojcicki said these changes are just a few among many in the works for the online platform, as the company is working to balance both stricter internal policies and external regulation. Wojcicki has also issued an apology to the LGBTQ community, admitting that the “decision we made was hurtful to the LGBTQ community and that was not our intention at all.”
Amid a stream of online malcontent, YouTube is certainly playing its cards right on one thing: having Wojcicki own the issue, and speak publicly and transparently about YouTube’s plan of attack going forward, is a surefire way to assuage the bulk of the platform’s critics.
Sadly, as with the case of Crowder, tackling hate speech on the Internet seems to be a global game of whack-a-mole. Only time will tell if Wojcicki has been convincing in her confidence that YouTube holds a mallet wide, and accurate, enough to tackle this issue.