Harassment, homophobia: a journalist denounces the inaction of YouTube

moderation, problem recurring of the major platforms of the Web, is at the heart of a new controversy in the United States. Last week, the american journalist C

Harassment, homophobia: a journalist denounces the inaction of YouTube

moderation, problem recurring of the major platforms of the Web, is at the heart of a new controversy in the United States. Last week, the american journalist Carlos Maza, member of the editorial board of Vox Media, has decided to take the word on Twitter. He denounced the homophobic insults and racist repeated ("homo zozote", "recruited because he is gay and mexican", "go eat of the penis") he has been suffering for several years from Steven Crowder, a facilitator influential of which the chain has more than 3.7 million subscribers on YouTube. The american journalist has asked the platform to remove the videos of the blogger is conservative. After you have analyzed YouTube, which welcomes regularly to provide a platform of expression for the LGBT community, however, has decided not to moderate.

"as an open platform, it is crucial for us to ensure that everyone - creators, journalists and presenters - to express its opinion in the framework of our policies," explained YouTube in several tweets before saying "opinions can be deeply offensive, but if they do not violate our policies, they remain on our site". In this reaction about the case "Carlos Maza - Steven Crowder", YouTube did not even mention the terms "harassment" or "hate speech".

A statement deemed hypocritical by many journalists and specialists in social networks. Ironically, according to many of them: the fact that YouTube has decided to sport the colours of the flag rainbow on his Twitter account to support the homosexual cause in a full month of pride celebrations. YouTube has also been very criticized with respect to its probles internal rules. In the topic "hate speech", the platform specifies that each "content that promotes violence or hatred against individuals or groups on the basis of several characteristics including sexual orientation is deleted". It adds in another topic, dedicated to cyber-bullying as "the content or conduct designed to harass, threaten, or intimidate, maliciously of other people is not allowed".

Virality of abusive content

The case of Carlos Maza fit in these different categories. Because in addition to insults, this is also and especially the campaign of humiliation on the social networks of which he was the target that the journalist denounces. Thousands of fans of Steven Crowder attacked him directly on other social networks such as Twitter. The journalist has also been threatened directly by SMS. T-shirts with a photo of Carlos Maza, accompanied by a message of insult have even been put on sale on the Web.

"YouTube is trying to find excuses to avoid to apply its own policies, because he knows that this would result in the banishment of some of its creators the most popular," responded Carlos Maza on the media's Gizmodo. "YouTube doesn't give a fuck to put an end to the harassment, it controls just the collateral damage to continue to make it seem to advertisers that he has the courage to regulate its own platform."

Carlos Maza point here is a problem organic of YouTube at the origin of all his scandals of moderation: the trend viral of abusive content. Because the more a content is viral, the more it appears in the recommendations of videos, the first source of traffic on YouTube, and the more it can make money through advertising. Gold, on the Internet, the content polemics often make a lot of hearing, and the cause of many reactions. Of polémistes have benefited from this operation to make it a real businness. According to several researchers, including the American Renee di Resta, who has worked on the dissemination of messages antivaccins, so it is the very nature of platforms such as YouTube, which is problematic and that it needs to change. Because even if they have the ability to mass-delete content problems, their algorithms very secret tend to amplify the scope of videos or posts provocative, shocking and extremist to build an economic model that is unhealthy, based on the fear, the anger or the hatred of the other. The problem is not so much one of moderation that the amplification according to several experts of the functioning of social networks.

After you have generated the misunderstanding and dissatisfaction, YouTube has finally decided to go a little further. On Wednesday, the platform has made the decision to démonétiser the chain of Steven Crowder. It will not be possible for the videographer to earn money via advertising. This decision may not be as temporary as YouTube could go over if Steven Crowder "rule all the problems related to its chain," according to the communication of the platform. It will be necessary, for example, that he stopped selling clothes on which included homophobic statements via this channel. "The problem is not the monetization. The problem is that YouTube allows monsters to become superstars who break the rules and build an army of followers radicalized to which they sell derivatives to make millions of dollars," was counter-attacked Carlos maza on Twitter.

at the same time, YouTube announced the new decisions regarding the harassment on its platform. It will now prohibit videos that promote the superiority of one group to justify discrimination based on age, sex, race, caste, religion, sexual orientation, or veteran status". This decision relates directly to the channels pro-Nazi or those promoting ideas supremacist for example. Some of the "violent events well documented" as the 11 September or the massacre of Sandy Hook will no longer be in doubt. The videos claiming they are not will be deleted. Here are the channels complotistes that are directly referred to.


Far from being isolated, this story also illustrates the lack of effectiveness and the positioning ambiguous platforms in the face of hate speech. With thousands of moderators are humans in the world, and technologies of artificial intelligence, supposed to automatically delete abuse online, they have difficulties to identify and to categorize the content of "harassment". More subtle than the terrorist publication or child abuse, they are in most cases removed after having been initially reported by users.

Sometimes, as with Carlos Maza, they are not deleted at all. When moral decisions need to be made, the platforms tend to act on a case-by-case basis, for fear of being perceived as laxs or, on the contrary, to be accused of censorship. Last August, if Alex Jones had already shown this phenomenon. All accounts of this host conspiracy theorist and very popular in the line had been suspended simultaneously on Apple, Facebook, YouTube or Spotify. But he had to wait a month of more for Twitter to take the same decision. The network of micro-blogging had decided not to suspend the polemicist in the name of freedom of expression.

Same observation when you touch the politically sensitive questions as with the suprémacisme white. In Twitter, for example, frames in-house, have recently admitted that the removal of this type of content would result in the automatic ban of accounts of several Republican figures in the United States, including members of president Donald Trump. For fear of being accused of political censorship, the social network has therefore decided not to put in place an automated moderation of the racist content. For months, the administration Trump accuses social networks to censor the voice of the conservative online. In mid-may, the White House has even decided to put online a form dedicated to the complaints of American citizens who feel that their social media accounts have been suspended because of their political opinions.

Updated Date: 07 June 2019, 00:00

Kathleen Lees


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