YouTube CEO Says ‘Openness’ Is Essential, Even for ‘Offensive’ Content

“I believe that hearing a broad range of perspectives ultimately makes us a stronger and more informed society, even if we disagree with some of those views,” Susan Wojcicki says

YouTube chief Susan Wojcicki looked to stick a difficult landing in her quarterly letter to creators on Tuesday, saying the internet’s dominant video site remains dedicated to “openness,” while also continuing to diligently fight content that violates its rules.

“A commitment to openness is not easy. It sometimes means leaving up content that is outside the mainstream, controversial or even offensive,” Wojcicki wrote. “But I believe that hearing a broad range of perspectives ultimately makes us a stronger and more informed society, even if we disagree with some of those views.”

Wojcicki said being an open platform helps “foster community,” and pointed to a young Australian Youtuber that documents what it’s like to live with Tourette’s syndrome as one example.

At the same time, Wojcicki said enforcing YouTube’s guidelines allows for a “diversity of speech” and helps keep the platform accessible to the masses.

YouTube’s guidelines bar several types of videos, including “violent or gory content” and “hateful content,” which the company defines as promoting violence against people based on their “race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, nationality, veteran status, or sexual orientation/gender identity.” Wojcicki added YouTube must ensure a “responsible community” by rewarding “trusted” creators.

Wojcicki’s comments come a few months after YouTube decided to demonetize, but not ban, conservative commentator Steven Crowder  for calling former Vox personality Carlos Maza a “lispy queer” and “gay Latino” in videos critiquing his political views. Maza said many of Crowder’s fans had also harassed him and texted him to debate the commentator. Ultimately, YouTube’s decision did little to placate Maza, who tweeted that the company “made this problem worse than it already was” by not banning Crowder altogether.

YouTube creators were split on what the Crowder-Maza saga meant in June. Dave Rubin, who hosts a political and social commentary show on YouTube, said he worried the situation would only lead to Silicon Valley censorship. “Private companies can do what they want, but perhaps in this case, with the amount of information these companies control, and the way they control how we communicate in the modern world, we have to look at government involvement. My strong preference would be more competitors springing up and I’m working on several options on that front myself.”

On the other hand, Anthony Fantano, who runs album review channel “The Needle Drop,” was happy to see YouTube take action against Crowder.

“We’re not just talking about offensive words here. We’re talking about pointed targeting of somebody who has been doxxed and he’s essentially getting chased down by Crowder’s fans as a result of this,” he told TheWrap in June. “I think the matter of hate speech on the platform and using language that targets and demeans is certainly a concern and definitely worthy of the actions YouTube has taken in terms of demonetization. He should absolutely be demonetized.”

The incident highlighted the tricky position YouTube often finds itself in between promoting “openness” and applying its arcane rules.

Sean Burch

Sean Burch

Tech reporter • [email protected] • @seanb44 


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