YouTube looking at its harassment policies… again

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Harassment on YouTube has reared its ugly head once again, or rather the way that the online video platform chooses to police it has.

This as YouTube posted a blog explaining an escalating situation between two creators – Carlos Maza and Steven Crowder – with the former being accused of harassing Maza based on his ethnicity and sexual orientation.

Before YouTube delves into the meat of the issue, they seemingly pat themselves on the back, listing a handful of instances over the platform’s 14 year existence when it was a safe place to create.

To the company’s credit they did acknowledge that their current policies are ill-equipped to deal with newer issues that are cropping up on the site, and that they need to addressed and altered for the betterment of their users and content creators.

“One of the most important issues we face is around harassment. We enforce our policies here rigorously and regardless of the creator in question: In the first quarter of 2019, we removed tens of thousands of videos and accounts for violation of our policies on cyberbullying and harassment. We also removed hundreds of millions of comments, many of which were flagged and removed due to harassment,” writes Chris Dale, the company’s head of communications.

Dale then goes on to explain how the platform is trying to deal with a tricky grey area in terms of defining harassment, especially as each instance is different, and therefore open to interpretation.

“For harassment, we look at whether the purpose of the video is to incite harassment, threaten or humiliate an individual; or whether personal information is revealed(…). For hate speech, we look at whether the primary purpose of the video is to incite hatred toward or promote supremacism over a protected group; or whether it seeks to incite violence,” Dale tries to distinguish.

“To be clear, using racial, homophobic, or sexist epithets on their own would not necessarily violate either of these policies,” he adds.

And it’s that previous sentence that needs to scrutinised more aggressively by YouTube, which is why the company is once again putting together a team to try to understand the aspects surrounding harassment, and come up with a workable solution.

“In the coming months, we will be taking a hard look at our harassment policies with an aim to update them — just as we have to so many policies over the years — in consultation with experts, creators, journalists and those who have, themselves, been victims of harassment,” says Dale.

“We are determined to evolve our policies, and continue to hold our creators and ourselves to a higher standard,” he concludes.

This is not the first time such rhetoric has been spouted by YouTube in the wake of controversy, and in all likelihood it will not be the last.

Whether the review process, which does not have a precise timeline, will reach the desired result of a clearly defined harassment policy, is unclear.

Whether YouTube will properly enforce such guidelines is even harder to tell.

Robin-Leigh Chetty

Robin-Leigh Chetty

When he's not reviewing the latest smartphones, Robin-Leigh is writing about everything tech-related from IoT and smart cities, to 5G and cloud computing. He's also a keen photographer and dabbles in console games.