On Monday, tech website Recode published an interview conducted by YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki with Recode’s co-founder Kara Swisher, who bemoaned that her 13-year-old son had started watching Ben Shapiro videos, claimed watching the videos was a “gateway drug” to eventually watching Neo-Nazi videos, and said she would remove Shapiro’s video’s from YouTube if she could. That prompted Shapiro to fire back on Twitter, “It seems rather illiberal of you to ask YouTube to ban my videos.”
The two women were discussing how to keep youngsters safe from problematic material on YouTube when Wojcicki stated:
But recommendations, for example, we just made a change to how we handle recommendations, where we have readers, the readers go through — we make sure they’re representative from all parts of the US, we publish the guidelines — those readers then identify a set of videos that they think are, could be, they might technically meet the requirements of following our community guidelines, but they’re close. And there’s a lot of content that, there’s 1 percent that brushes up against the community guidelines. So what we do is we identify this with, a set of them, with humans, and then we use machines and machine learning to expand, and based on that then we are basically very unlikely to recommend that.
Swisher warned, “I’ll get to recommendations, I have a personal beef with you about that."
Wojcicki replied, “Okay. I can’t wait to hear."
Then Swisher launched into her rant:
My son, who is 13 years old, started watching Ben Shapiro videos. And he’s like the gateway drug to the next group. And then it goes right to Jordan Peterson, then it goes down and in three clicks he was in Neo-Nazi stuff. It was astonishing. And then I had to listen to it at dinner. And I was sort of like, “I’m going to kill Susan Wojcicki first.”
Wojcicki: “Okay. Here I am."
Swisher went further, calling Shapiro an “idiot”:
But it was sort of like, I was sort of like, it feels like, as I said, I think you’ve heard me say this, it feels like all you tech companies have built cities, these beautiful cities, but you decided not to initially put in police, fire, garbage, street signs, and stuff like that, and so it feels like The Purge every night. It’s a good joke, but it is, I’m sort of like, and then I’ve got this kid who’s like, “Well Ben Shapiro’s sort of smart.” I’m like, “No he’s not! Not even slightly! He’s clever but he’s an idiot.”
After a brief detour, Wojcicki returned to Swisher’s son, saying, “So getting to your son ...”
Swisher, pathetically, “He’s lost.”
Wojcicki, ever hopeful, “No, we can work on your son here, I have a son too and I get some of these discussions also at the dinner table. I think what you’re describing is — and the way we think about it, too — look, there’s a set of content that has to meet the community guidelines. Ben Shapiro is going to meet the community guidelines. I don’t think you’re suggesting that we remove him from the platform. Are you?”
Swisher, bluntly, “I would, but I can’t. No, no.”
Shapiro responded on Twitter, "I’m glad your son watches my videos! It seems rather illiberal of you to ask YouTube to ban my videos. @susanwojcicki, I'm pleased that you aren't interested in banning me; you probably shouldn't give in to people who lobby you to ban those they don't like."
He added, “BTW, I wouldn't ask for @karaswisher's content to be banned even if I could! Because that's ridiculous.”