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YouTube Updates Harassment Policy to Curb Threats and Personal Attacks

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  • YouTube announced new bullying and harassment policies that will prohibit implied threats and malicious insults based on a person’s sexuality, race, or gender expression.
  • Under the new policy, channels who show a pattern of harassing behavior by continuously making remarks that come close to violating the harassment policy could also receive consequences.
  • These changes come several months after a public controversy where former Vox host Carlos Maza accused conservative commentator Steven Crowder of harassing him on his channel. While Crowder did repeatedly call Maza names like “lispy queer,” YouTube said this was not a violation of their policy.
  • Many were not happy with YouTube’s new policy, resulting in #YouTubeIsOverParty trending on Twitter. Some creators say they have already been impacted by the guidelines.

YouTube’s New Policy

YouTube announced new policy changes that will prohibit implied threats and malicious insults based on a person’s sexuality, race, or gender expression.

In a Wednesday blog post, the company announced that it was tightening the rules in regards to its bullying and harassment guidelines. These rules come after months of review with creators, experts from bullying organizations, free speech proponents, and advisers along all sides of the political spectrum.

“Harassment hurts our community by making people less inclined to share their opinions and engage with each other,” YouTube’s post said. “We heard this time and again from creators, including those who met with us during the development of this policy update.”

The company’s first major change aims to take “a stronger stance against threats and personal attacks.” YouTube’s guidelines previously said videos with explicit threats in them would have actions taken against them, and its new policy extends that to include videos with veiled or implied threats.

“This includes content simulating violence toward an individual or language suggesting physical violence may occur,” the post explains.  

On top of threatening someone, this will also cover demeaning language that YouTube feels crosses the line. This will include “content that maliciously insults someone based on protected attributes such as their race, gender expression, or sexual orientation.”

YouTube also addressed consequences for a “pattern of harassing behavior.” The company’s post says that creators found that harassment sometimes stemmed from remarks repeatedly made over the course of a series of videos or comments. Even though these individual videos or comments may not directly violate YouTube’s policy on their own, the company still has a plan to combat this. 

“Channels that repeatedly brush up against our harassment policy will be suspended from [YouTube Partner Program], eliminating their ability to make money on YouTube,” YouTube said. The platform added that this content could be removed, and channels could receive strikes or be terminated. 

YouTube clarified that these changes would also apply to the platform’s comment section, not just the videos posted. The company believes this will result in the number of comments removed from the site increasing, noting that 16 million were removed in their third quarter. 

YouTube also outlined newer tools that have recently been added that give creators some control over their comment section.

“When we’re not sure a comment violates our policies, but it seems potentially inappropriate, we give creators the option to review it before it’s posted on their channel,” YouTube said.

In the early stages of the roll-out, YouTube saw a 75% reduction in user flags on comments. Most creators now have this setting, but can opt-out of it if they would like. They can also ignore the held comments. 

“We expect there will continue to be healthy debates over some of the decisions and we have an appeals process in place if creators believe we’ve made the wrong call on a video,” the company said of this new update. 

Why Did YouTube Change Its Policy?

Many believe these changes were prompted by the controversy between Carlos Maza, who hosted a series for Vox, and Steven Crowder, who hosts a series called Louder with Crowder on YouTube. Back in May, Maza tweeted a thread calling Crowder out for repeatedly calling him names on his show. Crowder repeatedly referred to Maza as “Mr. Gay Vox,” a “lispy queer,” and “gay Latino from Vox” in a mocking tone. 

Crowder defended himself, saying this should not count as bullying, as he made these comments while providing criticism of Maza’s series. YouTube ended up responding to Maza saying that his comments, while potentially offensive, did not violate their policy.

Maza continued to call YouTube out for this decision. He said this “gives bigots free license” and accused the site of using its gay creators. Many criticized YouTube’s response, which came in June as the company celebrated pride month. Some found it hypocritical for the company to be publically celebrating the LGBTQ community while also allowing comments some perceived as homophobic to stay on their site.

Because of all this backlash, YouTube ended up suspending Crowder’s revenue. This decision was also met with outrage.

Maza and Crowder React

Maza tweeted a thread about the new policy on Wednesday morning. He claims that the real problem is whether or not YouTube will enforce it on all creators, which he thinks is unlikely. 

“YouTube loves to manage PR crises by rolling out vague content policies they don’t actually enforce,” he wrote. “These policies only work if YouTube is willing to take down its most popular rule-breakers. And there’s no reason, so far, to believe that it is.”

Before YouTube made their official announcement, Crowder posted a video titled “Urgent. The YouTube ‘Purge’ Is Coming.” The video was uploaded Tuesday and is based largely on murmurs about what was to come. He said the policies could silence and negatively impact his channel and others like it. 

“Obviously my heart goes out to any future conservative or any future independent voices that are affected because people got their feelings hurt,” he said. 

Policy Gets Negative Feedback

Other creators also shared their reactions, with some saying they were already being impacted by the new changes. Ian Carter, known online as iDubbbz, tweeted a screenshot of an email from YouTube saying his video “Content Cop: Leafy” was taken down for violating guidelines.

He uses vulgar and antagonistic language in the video, and jokes about bullying being okay. Many, however, don’t think the video should have been removed as it was meant to call out someone else’s bad behavior. 

Another creator, Gokanaru said his video critiquing h3h3 productions was removed. 

Some online were frustrated with this, noting that their videos should not be taken down while someone like Onision, who has been accused of predatory behavior and grooming, still has videos online. 

#YouTubeIsOverParty was a trending topic on Twitter by late Wednesday morning. Many used the hashtag to say that the policy could negatively impact creativity on the platform and that YouTube should not try to make this seem like this was a policy that creators asked for.  

Even though the trending topic gained a lot of traction, YouTuber Taylor Harris said that as far as the use of the site goes, YouTube will likely be unimpacted. 

See what others are saying: (Axios) (Tech Crunch) (Vox)

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Pokémon, Star Wars & Candy Crush: How DLCs & Microtransactions Changed The Gaming Industry

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While DLC’s (downloadable content) and microtransactions are a commonly accepted practice in the gaming community, they are also still highly controversial. Some lawmakers around the world have even condemned these types of business models, likening them to child-targeted gambling. In the United States, Republican Senator Josh Hawley has proposed a bipartisan bill that would ban a type of microtransaction in games aimed at minors. 

The topic of DLC’s and microtransaction is also a hot topic among fans, with many saying that while these features can help a game, a lot of times, they feel like companies abuse these practices. We want to know: What are YOU, as a consumer, willing to pay for?

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Appeals Court Rules YouTube Can Censor Content in PragerU Case

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  • A federal appeals court ruled YouTube is not subject to the First Amendment and can censor content on its platform as part of a long-running lawsuit filed by conservative nonprofit PragerU.
  • The lawsuit alleged that YouTube demonetized and limited some of PragerU’s videos because it is biased against conservatives.
  • PragerU called the move censorship and discrimination, arguing that YouTube should be treated like the government, not a private company, in matters of free speech.

PragerU Lawsuit

A federal appeals court in California ruled that privately-owned tech companies like YouTube are not bound to the First Amendment and can censor content.

The decision comes from a 2017 lawsuit against YouTube and its parent company Google that was filed by PragerU, a nonprofit headed by Dennis Prager. The company filed its complaint after YouTube demonetized and restricted some of its videos. 

PragerU accused YouTube of being biased against conservative views, arguing that the decision amounted to discrimination and censorship. The lawsuit claims that YouTube had intentionally demonetized and restricted the videos “as a political gag mechanism to silence PragerU.”

The lawsuit also argued that YouTube regulates free speech on a “public forum,” and so it should be subject to the same scrutiny that the government is under the First Amendment.

To argue this point, the lawsuit cited the Supreme Court case Marsh v. Alabama. In that case, the court ruled that a Jehovah’s Witness had the right to give out leaflets in a town fully owned by a corporation.

A District judge dismissed the lawsuit in March 2018. In her decision, Judge Lucy Koh cited a more recent Supreme Court ruling in Lloyd Corp. v. Tanner, where the court decided that a mall could ban people from distributing anti-Vietnam War fliers on its property. 

In that ruling, the Supreme Court also clarified that Marsh v. Alabama could be only be applied to the town in the case.

Appeals Court

On Wednesday, a three-judge panel on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Koh’s decision, again ruling against PragerU.

“Despite YouTube’s ubiquity and its role as a public-facing platform, it remains a private forum, not a public forum subject to judicial scrutiny under the First Amendment,” Judge M. Margaret McKeown wrote in the panel’s decision.

“PragerU’s claim that YouTube censored PragerU’s speech faces a formidable threshold hurdle: YouTube is a private entity. The Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment prohibits the government— not a private party— from abridging speech.”

In their decision, the appellate judges pointed to a Supreme Court ruling from last year, where the highest court found that, “merely hosting speech by others is not a traditional, exclusive public function and does not alone transform private entities into state actors subject to First Amendment constraints.”

The judges also shot down a claim that YouTube was guilty of false advertising. 

Response

A YouTube spokesperson defended the social media platform and its parent company in a statement following the court’s ruling.

“Google’s products are not politically biased,” the spokesperson said. “PragerU’s allegations were meritless, both factually and legally, and the court’s ruling vindicates important legal principles that allow us to provide different choices and settings to users.”

PragerU, however, appears to believe the fight is not over.

“Obviously, we are disappointed,” the organization’s lawyer told the Wall Street Journal. “We will continue to pursue PragerU’s claims of overt discrimination on YouTube in the state court case under California’s heightened antidiscrimination, free-speech and consumer-contract law.”

But many have noted, that the ruling was not unexpected at all. According to the Journal, no court has supported PragerU’s legal argument, as it is widely accepted that free speech constraints are applied only to the government and not private entities.

The argument that social media companies like YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook should be pinned to the First Amendment is one that has been growing more and more prominent, especially among conservative circles. 

Those who support this argument often believe that certain efforts by large tech companies to regulate content on their platforms are tantamount to censorship.

These arguments are almost certainly going to remain in the polarizing political discourses around free speech and social media. However, as the Journal argues, the appellate court’s decision is “the most emphatic rejection of the argument advanced in some conservative circles that YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and other giant tech platforms are bound by the First Amendment.”

See what others are saying: (The Wall Street Journal) (Ars Technica) (The Washington Examiner)

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James Charles Faces Backlash for Impersonating Latin TikTok Character, Rosa

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  • Fans of the beloved TikTok star known as Rosa are slamming James Charles for uploading an impersonation that included the Latin character’s stereotypical accent. 
  • Some felt it was wrong for a non-Latino person to impersonate the character, while others argued that it’s commonly done across the app.
  • Amidst the drama, Adam Martinez, the creator behind the character, seemingly tried to calm fans by saying that his videos are meant to bring joy to people around the world.

James’ Post 

After much backlash, YouTuber James Charles took down a Snapchat video of himself impersonating Latin TikTok star @adamrayokay’s alter ego, Rosa.

For those who aren’t aware, 20-year-old Adam Martinez’s Rosa character is essentially an exaggerated comedic stereotype of a young Latina. Rosa videos are usually filmed as if she were speaking to someone, which allows room for viewers to upload their own take on the scene using TikTok’s duet feature or the original audio. 

The specific Rosa video that James was attempting to recreate is captioned: “POV: Rosa finds out her 8th period partner is gay.” It features Rosa explaining to her fellow classmate why she suspected he was gay. 

@adamrayokay

POV: Rosa finds out her 8th period partner is gay😭😂 #fyp #viral #foryou

♬ original sound – adamrayokay

In his Snapchat, James attempted to replicate that TikTok while putting on Rosa’s accent, a move that many felt crossed a line. 

Backlash 

Some called the impersonation disrespectful and even racist. Others noted that there is a major difference between a member of a community making jokes about stereotypes as opposed to outsiders doing it. 

Defense 

Rosa is pretty well-loved on the app and has quickly helped Martinez shoot to over 2.5 million TikTok followers since first posting as the character in December 2019. Latin creators who post Rosa duets have also been met with support and have been affectionately dubbed members of the “Rosa Cinematic Universe” by viewers. So it’s not uncommon to see people upload their own responses or takes on the character’s scenes. 

#Rosa is a trending topic on TikTok with over 1 billion views.

Because of Rosa’s popularity, many have defended James for recreating a character that tons of others online also impersonate. 

However, some argued that James’ version is slightly different in nature, aside from the fact that he isn’t Latino. Rather than mouthing over the original audio of the clip or responding in his normal voice using the duet feature, James specifically used an accent. 

The conversation then shifted to whether or not impersonating the character’s accent was any different than lipsyncing the audio. Others said any non-Latino’s impersonating Rosa is wrong and should stop.

Adamrayokay Attempts to Calms Fans

Without specifically mentioning the drama, Martinez tweeted about the purpose of his videos in an apparent attempt to alleviate the tension. “My videos are made to bring JOY to people all around the world,” he wrote. “Let’s remember that keep the positivity going!!!” 

“Love u,” James responded to the post. 

James later sent out a tweet that many assumed was, at least in part, related to all of the backlash. “I get that a lot of people don’t like me. I’ve learned to accept & understand it – but the extent that some people on this app are willing to go in attempt to ruin my life is truly sad,” he wrote.

“I hope one day people find a way to feel validation without having to bash others for likes.”

See what others are saying: (DailyDot) (Seventeen) (PopBuzz)

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