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YouTube has caved to enormous pressure to punish a popular right-wing video creator for his racist and homophobic bullying of a journalist — sort of.
A day after explaining that Steven Crowder’s repeated harassment of Vox’s Carlos Maza didn’t violate its policies, the company announced Wednesday that it would demonetize certain parts of Crowder’s channel, which has more than 3.8 million subscribers.
“We came to this decision because a pattern of egregious actions has harmed the broader community and is against our YouTube Partner Program policies,” YouTube tweeted.
The u-turn has added yet more confusion to the company’s response to clear racism and homophobia on its platform.
While Crowder repeatedly slurred Maza as a “little queer” and “gay Latino from Vox,” among other insults, YouTube said Tuesday that his “videos as posted don’t violate our policies.” Crowder’s epithets, the company added, were “clearly hurtful” but within the scope of debate allowed by YouTube.
The decision Wednesday to prevent Crowder from accessing his share of the advertising revenue YouTube makes on his videos would seem to indicate the opposite. The mixed messages fit within a long pattern of various social media giants enforcing their policies in seemingly selective and opaque ways.
What’s more, many video creators draw sizable portions of their income from audience contributions or merchandise, rather than advertising. Crowder’s videos point viewers to his website, where fans can buy yearly subscriptions and shirts emblazoned with “Socialism Is For F*GS,” among other offerings. It’s unclear whether Crowder will be allowed to continue that on future videos.
“The problem isn't Crowder and the problem isn't monetization,” Maza tweeted after YouTube’s update Wednesday. “The problem is that YouTube allows monsters and bullies to become superstars, break YouTube's rules, build an army of loyal, radicalized followers, and then make millions selling them merch that sustains their work.”
YouTube appeared to acknowledge that loophole in bewildering and contradictory responses to Maza. Cue additional confusion.
“To clarify, in order to reinstate monetization on this channel, he will need to remove the link to his T-shirts,” the company tweeted.
“Sorry for the confusion, we were responding to your tweets about the T-shirts,” the company tweeted soon after. “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.”
Crowder has also repeatedly bashed Maza for what he claims is a war against free speech. Right-wing supporters have likewise begun framing YouTube’s decision as part of Big Tech’s supposed censorship of conservative voices. There’s little evidence to back up that claim.
Cover image: Carsten Rehder/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images