YouTube Finally Takes a Stronger Stance Against Hate Speech
The video platform promises to ban incendiary content.
On Wednesday, YouTube made a long-called-for and much-awaited announcement that it would ban content on its platform that glorifies or promotes racism, racial bias, and racial discrimination.
Youtube will also regulate and remove videos that deny or deride well-documented violent events in history, like the Holocaust, the 9/11 terror attack, or the Sandy Hook School Shooting.
While YouTube has always opposed hate speech, but has considered the right to free speech paramount. Lately, however, a global movement has emerged on the need to curb extremism online, especially after the live streaming of the mosque massacre by the killers in Christchurch, New Zealand.
YouTube’s policies came under the spotlight recently when Vox video journalist Carlos Maza detailed the abuse by right wing commentators he had to endure on the video platform. YouTube has previously been in hot water for restricting sexual and queer content, as well as content that depicts female full frontal nudity and female menstruation. Maza, a gay Latinax video producer, has been the target of homophobic, racial, and ableist slurs from many extremist commentators.
One instance in particular, which he documents on Twitter, was when a YouTube video host released Maza’s phone number and contact details to the video hosts’ 3 million subscriber base. Maza was “doxxed”, a process where people bombard him with direct texts, calls, and other forms of intimidating and immediate contact regarding his political stance. In a series of tweets detailing the terror he felt, Maza placed the blame squarely on YouTube for failing to sanction content creators who target LGBTQI individuals with hate speech.
YouTube responded in to the tweets on the Maza incident , stating “While we found language that was clearly hurtful, the videos as posted don’t violate our policies."
Additionally, YouTube wrote to Vox with an assessment claim, finding that “the company had found that Crowder had not directly incited his followers to go after Maza, despite Maza saying that a large number of Crowder’s fans had harassed him as a result of Crowder’s videos.”
After the June 4 tweets, Youtube followed it up with an announcement on June 5, which states: “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”.
Concerns still remain about the way this ban will be implemented, about the extent of control by the site, about what would be considered hate speech. Bringing this into the Indian context, it would be interesting to see how the approach works with the policies of a number of state leaders in the current government. From Amit Shah's comments against Islam, to Pragya Thakur's statements recasting Gandhi's assassination as a matter of Godse's martyrdom, it remains to be seen where the balance of online hate speech regulation falls in India.