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An open letter to YouTube’s CEO

This Pride Month, your LGBTQ creators deserve more than just a rainbow logo.

Dear Susan Wojcicki,

YouTube’s social media profiles have been updated with a rainbow-themed version of your logo to celebrate Pride Month. But to truly celebrate your LGBTQ creators and users, there’s another more meaningful update you need to make this month.

Your platform has made it easier than ever for people making abusive content to reach a massive scale. As Vox video producer Carlos Maza documented in a Twitter thread, he’s been the subject of repeated personal attacks by the popular YouTube commentator Steven Crowder. During a series of videos attempting to rebut Carlos’s arguments, he calls Carlos “the lispy queer from Vox,” along with many other homophobic and racist slurs. These repeated attacks on Carlos’s sexual orientation and ethnicity have led to vicious onslaughts, including doxxing and dogpiling, from many of Crowder’s millions of fans.

To Carlos, us, and many of your creators and users, this behavior is in clear violation of your company’s community guidelines. YouTube’s harassment policy states that “content that makes hurtful and negative personal comments/videos about another person” will be removed from the platform. Your hate speech policy states, “We remove content promoting violence or hatred against individuals or groups based on” race, sexual orientation, and many other protected attributes.

To YouTube, however, Crowder’s behavior — while worthy of demonetization — is not in violation of these policies, as long as the offending language is not “the primary purpose” of a video. If the repeated harassment in these videos doesn’t cross the line by YouTube’s standards, then your line needs to be moved. Without a serious change to YouTube’s interpretation of its standards, Crowder is free to continue to make videos where he hurls slurs at journalists and creators, who will then keep getting hit with the same sort of harassment, invective, and dangerous leaking of personal information that Carlos has continued to experience from Crowder’s fans.

The suggestion implicit in YouTube’s inaction is that this harassment is simply the cost of doing business for a gay person of color on your platform. That is unacceptable to us. It should be unacceptable to you too.

Vox is proud to be among the many creators who have built big, loyal followings on YouTube — the platform is often a powerful tool to build community, give voice to underrepresented groups, spur creativity, and circulate interesting and educational information to millions. We’re sure you know there’s no meaningful alternative to YouTube, and leaving the platform would mean that those who are harassing creators have won. We’re committed to continuing to publish our signature Vox videos on the platform, but the current climate is untenable.

We are strong supporters of lively political debate and free speech and believe that turning a blind eye to abuse does nothing to advance either. Our efforts to protect Carlos and others from historically marginalized groups from being silenced or driven from the platform by incessant harassment are in line with these values. We appreciate YouTube’s efforts to work to improve your hate speech policy and your recent commitment to seriously review your harassment policy, and understand that making the internet a safer place while protecting political speech is a complicated, difficult task.

But right now those policies make everyone less safe. The dangerous backlash against creators who dare to speak out against abuse is all the more explosive when your rules are confusing and applied inconsistently and without transparency.

This Pride Month, change more than your logo. Clarify and enforce your harassment policy.

Signed,

Lauren Williams, Editor-in-Chief
Joe Posner, Head of Video

Understanding is critical

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