Last week, YouTube announced sweeping changes to how it handles user content that it deems “supremacist,” “hateful,” or “harmful” to the community — and very few voters are confident that the platform will end up applying its new rules fairly.
“YouTube has always had rules of the road, including a longstanding policy against hate speech,” the company announced in a statement last week. “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.”
The announcement came the same day that YouTube revealed that it had officially demonetized all of the videos produced by conservative comedian and commentator Steven Crowder because of what appears to be a new interpretation of its Community Guidelines that takes into account “harms” to the “broader community.”
“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 explained 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.”
Crowder was not the only one to see his videos demonetized; others, particularly on the right, that YouTube determined to be “harmful” likewise saw their ability to make money on the platform cut off.
So do people have confidence that YouTube is going to be fair in applying its new policies? Rasmussen asked 1,000 registered voters what they thought and found that only about a quarter (26%) believe YouTube will be unbiased in its handling of content, while about a third (34%) feel certain that YouTube “will likely use new content rules to censor views that it disagrees with”; 40% are unsure.
Unsurprisingly, Rasmussen found some differences in perspective depending on political identification. “Republicans, by a 44% to 21% margin, believe YouTube will use the rules for censorship. Independent voters, by a 34% to 24% margin, tend to agree,” ScottRasmussen.com reported Sunday. “Democrats, however have a different view. Thirty-three percent (33%) of those in Nancy Pelosi’s party believe YouTube will apply the rules equally while just 25% think they will become a tool for censorship (see crosstab results).”
The survey found that while 29% of respondents believe that YouTube is an unbiased platform, 20% believe it is biased against conservatives, and 44% are unsure. Only 6% said the platform was biased against liberals.
Though there are more people who believe the platform will not apply its own policies fairly, a vast majority (79%) still think the company should be allowed to determine how it handles users rather than being regulated by the government.
The results of the survey were published the same day that Axios published its interview with Google CEO Sundar Pichai discussing YouTube’s crackdown on “borderline content.” After admitting that Google “rank[s] content based on quality,” Pichai said YouTube is implementing the same approach. “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, content which doesn’t exactly violate policies, which need to be removed, but which can still cause harm,” he said.