YouTube Deletes 500 Million Comments in Fight Against ‘Hate Speech’

Video giant says there’s been a “5x spike” in channels and videos deleted for hate speech violations

Unsplash / Szabo Viktor

YouTube championed its continued efforts to fight “hate speech” on Tuesday, with the Google-owned video giant saying that it removed 500 million comments during the second quarter for violating its recently-expanded rules.

In a blog post, the company said that a “large increase in hate speech removals” had led to the 500 million purged comments — doubling the number of comments that were removed during Q1. Another 100,000 videos were deleted for hate speech violations, along with 17,000 channels that were terminated also for breaking hate speech rules; both represented a “5x spike” from the prior quarter.

The sharp increase comes after YouTube broadened its hate speech policy in June to block 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.” The new rule covered videos that “glorify Nazi ideology, which is inherently discriminatory,” YouTube said, as well as videos denying events like the Holocaust or Sandy Hook Elementary shooting.

The update added to YouTube’s existing policy against hate speech, which banned content promoting violence or hatred against people based on a myriad of factors, including ethnicity, gender identity, immigration status and religion.

Last week, YouTube chief Susan Wojcicki said the site remained dedicated to “openness” — even for “offensive” content — but that it would continue to fight against 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 said in a letter to creators. “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’s comments came 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. The decision divided many YouTube creators, with some calling it an attack on free expression, while others argued the company was right to punish Crowder.