YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki offered a half-baked apology this week to the LGBTQ community over the platform’s handling of the Steven Crowder controversy, but noted that any further action against Crowder would open the floodgates to a whole swath of other content that would need to be regulated or taken down.
Wojcicki was speaking at the Code Conference in Arizona on Monday when she was asked by Axios’ Ina Fried to defend YouTube’s handling of the controversy. Fried noted that YouTube flags a lot of LGBTQ content while allowing individuals like Crowder to get away with harassing and belittling LGBTQ creators like Vox journalist Carlos Maza.
“I’m really, personally very sorry. YouTube has always been a home of so many LGBTQ creators, and that’s why it was so emotional,” Wojcicki said. “We’ve always wanted to openly support this community. As a company we really want to support this community.”
“It’s just from a policy standpoint we need to be consistent,” Wojcicki continued. “If we took down that content there would be so much other content that we need to take down.”
YouTube has spent the last fortnight struggling to come up with a consistent response to Maza’s criticism that Crowder had been able to use the platform to steer threats and hate mail Maza’s way by posting video after video in which he refers to Maza in homophobic and racist terms.
The company initially said that Crowder’s videos didn’t violate any company policies, despite the fact that they contained harassing content, before then reversing course and temporarily demonetizing Crowder’s channel. At the same time, the platform rolled out a new series of anti-extremism policies, which turned into its own mini-PR disaster when teachers and journalists were inadvertently demonetized and banned from the platform.
In admitting that there would be “so much other content that we need to take down,” Wojcicki essentially admitted that YouTube is now being forced to play a massive game of catch-up to create a safer platform, since its previous community guidelines have been gamed and enforcement of those guidelines is extremely limited — a point which Maza made after YouTube announced the roll-out of the new anti-extremism policies.
“If YouTube has actually been enforcing its policies against hate speech and bullying, why does it need an additional policy for supremacist content? Isn’t that already included?” Maza tweeted. “It’s all a smokescreen. They don’t enforce any of this shit. Don’t fall for it.”
At the conference, Wojcicki further inadvertently emphasized the multitude of problems YouTube is facing with her non-answer to The New York Times, which recently published a major piece on how the platform helped radicalize a young man into the far right.
Wojcicki was asked specifically whether she believed YouTube was assisting in that radicalization.
“Our view has been that we are offering a diverse of content to our users and that we’re providing that diverse set,” she said. “Users will choose different types of content for them to see but we’re offering a diverse set over time.”