YouTube chief Susan Wojcicki apologized to the LGBTQ community on Monday for the company’s recent handling of conservative commentator Steven Crowder’s YouTube channel, while still defending the company’s decision not to remove him from the platform.
“I know that the decisions we made was very hurtful to the LGBTQ community and that wasn’t our intention at all,” Wojcicki said while speaking at Code Conference in Scottsdale, Arizona. “That was not our intention, and we were really sorry about that, and I do want to explain why we made the decision we did.”
Wojcicki’s apology comes after YouTube decided to demonetize, but not ban, Crowder last week after Vox reporter Carlos Maza shared a video compilation of Crowder calling him a “lispy queer” and “gay Latino,” among other slights, while critiquing his political opinions. Maza said many of Crowder’s fans had also harassed him and texted him to debate the commentator.
Crowder, who hosts a right-leaning comedy show, had his entire channel demonetized last Wednesday for a “pattern of egregious actions” that — despite YouTube stating that he didn’t violate its policies — “harmed the broader community,” according to the Google-owned video service. That decision came a day after YouTube initially said it wouldn’t take action against Crowder because he hadn’t violated its rules. Ultimately, YouTube’s move to demonetize Crowder did little to placate Maza, who tweeted that the company “made this problem worse than it already was” by not banning Crowder altogether.
Despite apologizing, Wojcicki said the company made the “right decision” in not kicking Crowder off. She said that the company makes decisions based on three things: context, whether the person being criticized is a public figure, and whether the comments are “malicious with the intent to harass.”
“Was this video dedicated to harassment, or was it a one-hour political video that had, say, a racial slur in it? Those are very different kinds of videos,” Wojcicki said.
Right now, YouTube has a “high bar” for what constitutes malicious behavior, she said.
“I’m really, personally very sorry,” Wojcicki added later. “YouTube has always been a home of so many LGBTQ creators, and that’s why it was so emotional. Even though it was a hard decision, it was made harder that it came from us — because it was such an important home. And even though we made this decision, we have so many people from the LGBTQ community. We’ve always wanted to openly support this community. As a company we really want to support this community.”
YouTube creators were split on what the Crowder-Maza saga meant last week. 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. “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.”