A day after acknowledging that his videos did not violate its policies, YouTube decided to demonetize all of conservative comedian and commentator Steven Crowder's videos in response to a left-wing Vox employee complaining that Crowder repeatedly made fun of him because of his identity. On the same day, YouTube announced a mass ban on all content promoting one group as superior to another "in order to justify discrimination, segregation or exclusion based on qualities like age, gender, race, caste, religion, sexual orientation or veteran status."
In an interview with Axios published Sunday but filmed before YouTube's unveling of its new policy last week, Google CEO Sundar Pichai signaled YouTube's crackdown and its plans to expand the ban to include "borderline content."
"Look, we aren't quite where we want to be," Pichai told "Axios on HBO." While YouTube is improving on eliminating content it deems problematic, he suggested, they are still working toward even more extensive content-controlling measures.
Google, said Pichai, "rank[s] content based on quality." They plan to apply that same approach to YouTube. "And so we are bringing that same notion and approach to YouTube so that we can rank higher quality stuff better and really prevent borderline content," he said.
Pichai then offered a definition of what he means by "borderline content." "Content which doesn't exactly violate policies, which need to be removed, but which can still cause harm," he said, in language echoing YouTube's statement to Crowder days later.
The issue is "a hard computer science problem," said Pichai, but an even harder "societal problem because we need better frameworks around what is hate speech, what’s not, and how do we as a company make those decisions at scale, and get it right without making mistakes."
As The Daily Wire reported, amid the Crowder controversy last week, YouTube announced sweeping changes to how it handles content.
"YouTube has always had rules of the road, including a longstanding policy against hate speech," YouTube said Wednesday in a statement. "Today, we're taking another step in our hate speech policy by specifically prohibiting videos alleging that a group is superior in order to justify discrimination, segregation or exclusion based on qualities like age, gender, race, caste, religion, sexual orientation or veteran status."
"We will begin enforcing this updated policy today; however, it will take time for our systems to fully ramp up and we'll be gradually expanding coverage over the next several months," the platform explained. Earlier this year, YouTube said it was going to crack down on channels that "repeatedly brush up against our hate speech policies" by barring them from working with the YouTube Partner ad program.
The announcement came the same day YouTube told Crowder that it had decided to demonetize all of the videos of his popular channel — a decision that came less than 24 hours after the company admitted his videos "don’t violate our policies."
"Even if a creator's content doesn't violate our community guidelines, we will take a look at the broader context and impact, and if their behavior is egregious and harms the broader community, we may take action," YouTube said in a statement Wednesday. "In the case of Crowder's channel, a thorough review over the weekend found that individually, the flagged videos did not violate our Community Guidelines. However, in the subsequent days, we saw the widespread harm to the YouTube community resulting from the ongoing pattern of egregious behavior, took a deeper look, and made the decision to suspend monetization. In order to be considered for reinstatement, all relevant issues with the channel need to be addressed, including any videos that violate our policies, as well as things like offensive merchandise."