Charlie Warzel: It’s been a rough week for YouTube, even by tech backlash standards.
Just this week the company has come under fire for creating a “digital playground” for pedophiles. Then, it attempted to purge extremist content from its site, only to accidentally delete a number of videos on Nazi history made by professors as part of the crackdown. And finally, there’s been the harassment debate over the conservative commentator Steven Crowder’s mocking of the Vox staffer Carlos Maza.
Quick summary: Mr. Crowder used slurs about Mr. Maza’s ethnicity (he’s Cuban-American) and sexual orientation (he’s gay). Mr. Crowder said the comments were not meant to be offensive. Mr. Maza has openly called for YouTube to take action against Mr. Crowder. YouTube, after days of deliberation, said the comments did not qualify as harassment. A day later, after public outcry, YouTube backtracked and demonetized Mr. Crowder’s channel, noting he’d violated rules. To make matters worse, the whole thing happened via a series of replies on Twitter. Sarah, I don’t have a question here so much as a statement: Help.
Sarah Jeong: Here’s my take: Yikes.
What a mess. I thought this Washington Post interview with Tarleton Gillespie, an academic who studies content moderation, was illuminating. For people who aren’t extremely online, all of this is going to seem truly alien. For others, it’s all too familiar. I’m reminded yet again of this 2014 piece, “The Future of the Culture Wars Is Here, and It’s Gamergate,” on a video games controversy that exploded into a misogynistic maelstrom of death threats (and persists today in strains of the alt-right).
Charlie Warzel and Sarah Jeong – New York Times – June 8, 2019.