YouTube unleashed massive confusion and satisfied apparently no one with its handling of Steven Crowder’s homophobic campaign against a gay journalist on Wednesday.
The company will “demonetize” Crowder, a far-right performer, for harassing Vox reporter Carlos Maza. The announcement was a partial reversal from Tuesday, when YouTube said it would not take action against Crowder. After a whiplash-inducing series of tweets, YouTube went from declining to act against Crowder, to demonetizing him, to appearing to base its decision on homophobic t-shirts Crowder sells, before finally saying his entire channel is a problem.
Maza said the decision is a cop-out.
“Basically all political content gets ‘demonetized.’” Maza tweeted. “Crowder's revenue stream isn't from YouTube ads. It's from selling merch and ‘Socialism Is For Fags’ shirts to millions of loyal customers, that @YouTube continues to drive to his channel. For free.”
The harassment started two years ago, when Crowder started making videos rebutting videos from Maza. Crowder, who has nearly 4 million YouTube subscribers, Crowder called Maza a “lispy queer,” among other insults, and uses his channel to sell “socialism is for f*gs” t-shirts. Crowder’s campaign routinely led his followers to harass Maza, who went public with his story of harassment this month.
On Tuesday night, YouTube declined to act against Crowder, telling Gizmodo that Crowder’s videos were acceptable because they were in the context of “debating” Maza.
After hours of backlash, YouTube announced a new policy against extremism on Wednesday, and later announced that it would suspend revenue on Crowder’s videos.
“Update on our continued review–we have suspended this channel’s monetization,” YouTube tweeted. “We came to this decision because a pattern of egregious actions has harmed the broader community and is against our YouTube Partner Program policies.”
But shortly thereafter, YouTube appeared to indicate that only Crowder’s t-shirt sales were a violation of their policies.
“In order to reinstate monetization on this channel, he will need to remove the link to his T-shirts,” YouTube tweeted at Maza, who had pointed out that Crowder still made money from shirts he promoted in videos.
After another wave of confusion, YouTube tweeted that the t-shirts were not central to Crowder’s demonetization.
“Sorry for the confusion, we were responding to your tweets about the T-shirts,” the Google-owned giant tweeted at Maza. “Again, this channel is demonetized due to continued egregious actions that have harmed the broader community. To be reinstated, he will need to address all of the issues with his channel.”
YouTube did not immediately return a request for comment.
Shortly before the announcement, Maza told The Daily Beast that YouTube’s policies should have already led to Crowder’s outright suspension.
“YouTube has explicit, clear policies against harassment, bullying, and hate speech. Those policies state that content that is meant to humiliate or dehumanize a target based on characteristics like sexual orientation and ethnicity violates those policies,” Maza said.
“I’m not asking YouTube to create some massive, complicated new policy to deal with this person. I’m asking them to enforce the policies that have been on the books for a long time at YouTube, and that use to convince reporters and advertisers that they have some handle on their platform.”
Maza said YouTube, which is currently promoting Pride Month, is making LGBT users sitting ducks for harassment
“It’s essentially saying to people of color, to LGBT people, that the cost for participating on YouTube is that you have to accept hate speech and abuse as part of participation,” he said. “What YouTube is doing is creating an environment where bullies can push people out of the public sphere out of concern for their mental and physical well-being … It’s why so many queer creators leave YouTube and Twitter. It’s because it is unsustainable for us to participate in speech platforms where abuse is not regulated at all.”
In a statement shortly after his demonetization, Crowder declared partial victory.
“It's been a bit of a whirlwind day,” he said in a video on Twitter. "Vox still gonna be pissed. Their goal is to completely get rid of people.”
He currently makes money from t-shirt sales, as well as from a paid content-sharing agreement with Ben Shapiro’s the Daily Wire, Media Matters reported.
Crowder’s demonetization comes hours after YouTube unveiled a new policy to ban “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 company said in a blog post. “This would include, for example, videos that promote or glorify Nazi ideology, which is inherently discriminatory.” It also said it would remove content denying “well-documented events” like the Holocaust or the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary took place.
Shortly after the announcement, white nationalists James Allsup and a bodybuilder nicknamed "The Golden One" said their videos had also been demonetized. Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes claimed he had at least one video deleted.
But it’s unclear how completely YouTube will enforce the new policy, and which accounts will be subject to removal, as opposed to simple demonetization. YouTube and its parent company Google have previously made noises about reducing extremist content, with Google announcing “four steps” against extremism in 2017.