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YouTube sides with conservative Steven Crowder amid policy updates
YouTube's constantly changing hate speech and harassment policies beg the question: Where exactly is the line?
Thomas Trutschel / Contributor
- Carlos Maza, a video creator for Vox who is gay, says right-wing commentator Steven Crowder has targeted him with racist and homophobic content.
- In a viral Twitter thread, Maza said YouTube is to blame for allowing content like Crowder's.
- YouTube's policies on hate speech and harassment have regularly changed, with updates as a recent as today (6/5/2019).
Since banning Alex Jones from its platform in 2018, YouTube has faced a barrage of criticism from right-leaning media figures who claim the company has silenced conservative voices. But on Wednesday, YouTube sided with a popular conservative channel accused of targeting a Vox video creator with racist, homophobic content.
The move begs the question: Where exactly is the line for YouTube's terms of service?
Carlos Maza — co-host of the Vox YouTube channel Strikethrough — tweeted a thread last week outlining harassment he's received in the wake of "rebuttal" videos from Steven Crowder, a popular conservative YouTube commentator. Crowder has risen to internet fame thanks in part to his popular "Change My Mind" videos, in which he debates issues like abortion and rape culture with passersby in public, usually on college campuses.
Since I started working at Vox, Steven Crowder has been making video after video "debunking" Strikethrough. Every s… https://t.co/hWUt7vwCgx— Carlos Maza (@Carlos Maza)1559264680.0
YouTube's harassment and cyberbullying policy prohibits content that is "deliberately posted in order to humiliate someone, makes hurtful and negative personal comments about another person or incite others to harass or threaten individuals on or off YouTube." According to YouTube, a days-long company investigation found that Crowder's videos don't violate this policy.
@gaywonk (3/4) As an open platform, it’s crucial for us to allow everyone–from creators to journalists to late-nigh… https://t.co/qmPLvnih25— TeamYouTube (@TeamYouTube)1559691785.0
Google, which owns YouTube, elaborated on the decision in an email to USA Today. "Crowder has not instructed his viewers to harass Maza on YouTube or any other platform and the main point of these videos was not to harass or threaten, but rather to respond to the opinion," the statement read.
Maza told USA Today that Crowder doesn't need to explicitly "call on their supporters to dox someone."
"They create an environment of targeted hostility and anger, and then play dumb when their supporters take action," he told USA TODAY. "YouTube is catering to monsters who want to target LGBT creators while maintaining plausible deniability."
Crowder disagreed. "This is corporate censorship," he said in a YouTube video responding to Maza's allegations. "This is a war. We will fight to the bitter end, both legally and publicly."
On Wednesday, YouTube seemed to temporarily demonetize Crowder's channel, at least until the channel removes a "link to his T-shirts," presumably referring to shirts on the creator's website that contain messages like "Socialism Is For F*gs."
@gaywonk @YouTube To clarify, in order to reinstate monetization on this channel, he will need to remove the link to his T-shirts.— TeamYouTube (@TeamYouTube)1559763368.0
Where is the line for YouTube's terms of service?
YouTube has been regularly issuing updates to its policies regarding cyberbullying, hate speech and harassment. In February, the platform issued new consequences for channels that publish content that brings "widespread harm" to the community. These punishments include demonetization, removal from Google Preferred lists, suspension, removal from Video Recommendations, and ineligibility to appear on trending lists.
On Wednesday, YouTube announced in a blog post that it will remove "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." What's more, YouTube said it has also banned videos promoting debunked conspiracy theories, such as denials of the Holocaust or the Sandy Hook shooting.
But YouTube also issued a policy update today that's considerably more ambiguous: A stated desire to remove more "borderline content," which the company defines as "content that comes right up to the line," citing videos that promote flat-earth theories or pseudoscientific medical information as examples. Beyond that, what qualifies as borderline content is anyone's guess.
In May, Neal Mohan, chief product officer at YouTube, spoke with Recode's Peter Kafka about the difficulty of policing YouTube content while also trying to maintain a platform where diverse voices can be heard.
"That's a combination of things, right? One is, does the video actually violate our policies?" said Mohan. "Are our policies drawn in the right way? We're constantly looking at our policies, including our hate and harassment policies. The second part is are we detecting it quickly enough and are we having an enforcement action on it quickly enough? And so what I would say is that all three of those elements are evolving, and we're not perfect," he continued. "We get better every day, but we're not perfect about them."
One open question is: Can mob reaction tip the scales when YouTube is deciding what content is "borderline"?
It's unclear what the ultimate result of the Maza-Crowder incident will be. But it's likely that YouTube is paying attention to it — and taking some action — because Maza's Twitter thread went viral and explicitly shames the company.
The problem isn't Crowder and the problem isn't monetization. The problem is that @YouTube allows monsters and bul… https://t.co/6tepo7iCqw— Carlos Maza (@Carlos Maza)1559762481.0
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Construction of the $500 billion dollar tech city-state of the future is moving ahead.
- The futuristic megacity Neom is being built in Saudi Arabia.
- The city will be fully automated, leading in health, education and quality of life.
- It will feature an artificial moon, cloud seeding, robotic gladiators and flying taxis.
The Red Sea area where Neom will be built:
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Frequent shopping for single items adds to our carbon footprint.
- A new study shows e-commerce sites like Amazon leave larger greenhouse gas footprints than retail stores.
- Ordering online from retail stores has an even smaller footprint than going to the store yourself.
- Greening efforts by major e-commerce sites won't curb wasteful consumer habits. Consolidating online orders can make a difference.
A pile of recycled cardboard sits on the ground at Recology's Recycle Central on January 4, 2018 in San Francisco, California.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images<p>A large part of the reason is speed. In a competitive market, pure players use the equation, <em>speed + convenience</em>, to drive adoption. This is especially relevant to the "last mile" GHG footprint: the distance between the distribution center and the consumer.</p><p>Interestingly, the smallest GHG footprint occurs when you order directly from a physical store—even smaller than going there yourself. Pure players, such as Amazon, are the greatest offenders. Variables like geographic location matter; the team looked at shopping in the UK, the US, China, and the Netherlands. </p><p>Sadegh Shahmohammadi, a PhD student at the Netherlands' Radboud University and corresponding author of the paper, <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/26/tech/greenhouse-gas-emissions-retail/index.html" target="_blank">says</a> the above "pattern holds true in countries where people mostly drive. It really depends on the country and consumer behavior there."</p><p>The researchers write that this year-and-a-half long study pushes back on previous research that claims online shopping to be better in terms of GHG footprints.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"They have, however, compared the GHG emissions per shopping event and did not consider the link between the retail channels and the basket size, which leads to a different conclusion than that of the current study."</p><p>Online retail is where convenience trumps environment: people tend to order one item at a time when shopping on pure player sites, whereas they stock up on multiple items when visiting a store. Consumers will sometimes order a number of separate items over the course of a week rather than making one trip to purchase everything they need. </p><p>While greening efforts by online retailers are important, until a shift in consumer attitude changes, the current carbon footprint will be a hard obstacle to overcome. Amazon is trying to have it both ways—carbon-free and convenience addicted—and the math isn't adding up. If you need to order things, do it online, but try to consolidate your purchases as much as possible.</p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
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