YouTube Inc. Chief Executive Susan Wojcicki defended the company’s harassment policies Monday, apologizing to those in the LGBTQ community who were offended by its recent decision not to remove videos with homophobic slurs but arguing that its policing of content needs to be consistent.
“We need to enforce those policies consistently because if we were not to enforce them consistently, there would be millions of other people saying what about this video, what about this video, what about this video?” Wojcicki said during an on-stage interview at the Code Conference in Scottsdale, Ariz. “If you look at the content on the internet, you look at rap songs, late night talks, a lot of humor, you can find a lot of racial slurs or sexist comments. If we were to take down every video…”
“It’s just from a policy standpoint we need to be consistent – if we took down that content, there would be so much other content that we need to take down,” she added. “Context really, really matters.”
YouTube was the subject of intense criticism, even from among Google employees, last week after Vox journalist Carlos Maza described years of harassment – including racist and homophobic slurs – he has received through YouTube, including from prominent conservative YouTube host Steven Crowder. YouTube decided to keep the videos online, saying they were valid opinions.
I don’t know what to say.
@YouTube has decided not to punish Crowder, after he spent two years harassing me for being gay and Latino.
I don’t know what to say. https://t.co/EFvWCNvPms
– Carlos Maza (@gaywonk) June 4, 2019
“We looked at a large number of these videos and we decided they were not violative of our harassment policies,” Wojcicki said Monday. YouTube did suspend Crowder from making ad revenue from his channels.
Some critics have argued that YouTube profits from the high user engagement that inflammatory videos create.
“The decision we made was very hurtful to the LGBTQ community,” she admitted. “That was not our intention at all. We’re really sorry about that.. . . As a company we really want to support this community.”
Separately last week, YouTube removed thousands of channels that supported white supremacy.
Wojcicki said those takedowns were part of a continuing effort to limit hate speech and extremist content on YouTube. “I see how much improvement we have already made,” she said Monday. “I’m not saying we’re done.”
YouTube is a unit of Alphabet Inc.’s Google. Alphabet Class A shares are down 7% in the past month, and are up 3.6% year to date, compared to the S&P 500’s 15% gain.