A week ago Vox journalist Carlos Maza, who writes and stars in the excellent Strikethrough media literacy series, went public with a complaint that right-wing YouTube personality Steven Crowder has allegedly been engaging in a long-running homophobic harassment campaign against Maza via videos Crowder posts on YouTube’s platform.
In his videos, Crowder has called Maza a “gay Mexican,” a “lispy queer,” and a “token Vox gay atheist sprite” as evidenced by a compilation video Maza put together featuring clips from Crowder’s videos.
Since I started working at Vox, Steven Crowder has been making video after video "debunking" Strikethrough. Every single video has included repeated, overt attacks on my sexual orientation and ethnicity. Here's a sample: pic.twitter.com/UReCcQ2Elj
— Carlos Maza (@gaywonk) May 31, 2019
As Maza explained on Twitter, “I’m not mad at Crowder. There will always be monsters in the world. I’m fucking pissed at @YouTube, which claims to support its LGBT creators, and has explicit policies against harassment and bullying.” Yet Maza said that, though he had repeatedly flagged Crowder’s videos to YouTube, the Google-owned site had taken no action to remove the offending videos.
This has been going on for years, and I've tried to flag this shit on several occasions. 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 on anti-conservative bias.
— Carlos Maza (@gaywonk) May 31, 2019
Six days after Maza first went public with his complaint about YouTube’s inaction, the company has finally commented on the matter. As the Guardian reports, YouTube issued a public statement saying:
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. As an open platform, it’s crucial for us to allow everyone – from creators to journalists to late-night TV hosts – to express their opinions within the scope of our policies. Opinions can be deeply offensive, but if they don’t violate our policies, they’ll remain on our site.
It’s unclear how Crowder’s comments don’t violate YouTube’s own harassment and cyberbullying policies, since those policies bar “content that makes hurtful and negative personal comments/videos about another person.” YouTube’s hate speech policy also bars creators from using “stereotypes that incite or promote hatred” based on attributes including ethnicity and sexual orientation.
YouTube then explained to Gizmodo that it assessed whether Crowder’s “criticism is focused primarily on debating the opinions expressed or is solely malicious,” and determined that “the main point of these videos was not to harass or threaten, but rather respond to the opinion[s]” posted by Maza.
In other words, YouTube says in this instance calling a gay man a “lispy queer” isn’t abuse, it’s a critique of Maza’s opinions. Right . . .
As Maza pointed out, YouTube’s decision has potentially opened up a Pandora’s box:
It’s going to get so much worse now. YouTube has publicly stated that racist and homophobic abuse doesn’t violate their anti-bullying policies. Crowder and his allies are going to be emboldened. I genuinely can’t imagine what LGBT employees at YouTube are doing right now. You can harass queer people as much as you want as long as it’s sandwiched between ‘debating’.
But hey, YouTube currently features a rainbow pride icon on its official YouTube Creators Twitter account and its YouTube Creators page in celebration of LGBT Pride Month, so we guess they’re already doing all they can for the LGBT community.
Look at these actual fucking ghouls: pic.twitter.com/H0f81bYVCY
— Carlos Maza (@gaywonk) June 5, 2019