June is usually the time when tech companies deck themselves out in rainbow colors and bend over backward to demonstrate just how much they support the LGBTQ+ community. YouTube, refreshingly, has taken a different tack this year. The company has ruled that right-wing commentator Steven Crowder hasn’t violated YouTube policy by continuously slinging anti-gay and anti-immigrant slurs — including a “gay Mexican,” a “lispy queer,” an “anchor baby,” and a “token Vox gay atheist sprite” — at Vox host Carlos Maza, leading to harassment and abuse against Maza from Crowder’s fans and followers.
It isn’t just that Crowder himself is harassing Maza, but that his content encourages his millions of fans to do the same. “Every time one [video] gets posted, I wake up to a wall of homophobic/racist abuse on Instagram and Twitter,” Maza explained on Twitter, showing screenshots of text messages from strangers telling him to “debate Crowder” from the time he was doxed. “These videos make me a target of ridiculous harassment, and it makes life sort of miserable.”
YouTube replied to Maza’s compilation video saying it had looked into his complaints but that Crowder’s videos would remain. “Our teams spent the last few days conducting an in-depth review of the videos flagged to us, and while we found language that was clearly hurtful, the videos as posted don’t violate our policies,” YouTube tweeted. “As an open platform, it’s crucial for us to allow everyone — from creators to journalists to late-night TV hosts — to express their opinions w/in the scope of our policies. Opinions can be deeply offensive, but if they don’t violate our policies, they’ll remain on our site.”
“My brain isn’t surprised — I said at the outset that YouTube wasn’t going to take this seriously, because YouTube doesn’t actually care about protecting LGBT creators, and I was right,” Maza told Intelligencer via DM. “But in my gut, I’m obviously horrified. I put myself out there and showed a bunch of people the abuse I had been experiencing. It was humiliating and degrading, and I can’t believe it STILL wasn’t enough to get YouTube to take it seriously. I don’t know what LGBT people are supposed to do to get this company to actually protect us.”
The replies from YouTube were tweeted directly at Maza and not released as part of a public statement. They offered very few, vague details about the process used to deem Crowder’s content passable and did not elaborate on what “aspects of the channel” are still being investigated. Crowder later posted an “apology” video directed at “everyone I’ve ever offended.” (This boiled down to Crowder sitting with a list of names of people he’d insulted and saying he was sorry for the insult and then … rereading the insult.) The video description contained a link where fans could buy Crowder’s “Socialism Is for F*gs” shirts for $25.
On Twitter, Maza posted a thread responding to YouTube’s decision, calling out LGBTQ YouTubers and YouTube employees to remind them “the company isn’t your friend.” He told Intelligencer he hasn’t heard personally from anyone at the company. “Don’t even know the name of the person who I was communicating with via the TeamYouTube twitter account.”
“YouTube trots out its queer creators to dance for advertisers every Pride month. I think its not just hypocritical. I think it’s actively exploitative. They do it because it makes them look good and to lure more advertisers to the platform. And then it uses the money from those advertisers to continue building the platforms of monsters who actively target and abuse marginalized people, including LGBT people,” Maza said of YouTube’s annual Pride efforts. “YouTube takes the bullies we escaped in high school and gives them millions of viewers, eager to pile on. It’s using us, taking our work to maintain a design structure that worsens our own misery.”
Only 25 days of June left to go!