Photo by Sara Kurfeß on Unsplash
For most companies, the month of June kicks off with flashing lights, bright colors, and an overwhelming amount of support for the gay community. H&M released its PRIDE x H&M campaign, Converse released a pride shoe line, and, under Todd Synder, and Champion has released a line of pro-LGBTQ+ apparel. While most companies embrace and welcome the LGBTQ+ community, one major company started off June in a very different way.
Youtube came under fire at the beginning of this month, after Carlos Maza, a Vox journalist and video producer, admitted that he had been consistently harassed by Steven Crowler, an avid far-right youtuber who constantly made fun of Maza’s show “Strikethrough”. Crowler’s channel features a series that debunks “Strikethrough”, and his twitter is jammed with hate speech, laughing at Maza because he is gay and Latinx. Crowler’s platform is huge, and thus, whenever he calls Maza “anchor baby, a lispy queer, a Mexican, etc”, Maza is bombarded with a wall of hate and death threats. Naturally, this caused Maza to feel an overwhelming amount of anxiety and fear.
As a result Maza turned toward Youtube, asking for the hate speech to be taken down and arguing that it violated the Youtube policy of hate speech. However, in a shocking turn of events, Youtube replied to Maza saying, “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.”
This reply highlights the underlying issue Youtube has to juggle: the balance between free thought, and where free expression might go too far. After Youtube’s public response to the situation, the company was placed under large amounts of pressure. The public backlash forced Youtube to temporarily demonatize Crowler and enforce a new hate policy. But Maza can clearly see that the progress Youtube has made was not motivated by its care but by its fear of losing money or viewers.
Youtube’s dismissal of derogatory hate speech creates a larger divide between people everywhere. By refusing to set up a boundary line for certain topics, free speech can turn offensive and ultimately cost people their reputations, well-being, or even lives. This issue affects an emerging progressive and inclusive society, and allows people to feel targeted and hurt.
This scenario, along with other videos that Youtube has deemed offensive or has ignored, raises a larger question. This brings the first amendment into question;where free speech goes too far? Earlier this year, Youtube banned comments on family vlogs, in case of child pedophilia, but as seen with the Maza situation, the company has no problem keeping opinions that may ruin someone’s career or insult an entire community of people.
As an influential social forum, Youtube’s been tasked with drawing a line. But that line has to maintain the company’s “free speech” policy while also protecting the rights and well being of others. The newest scandal on their platform has brought this issue into the limelight, and now, Youtube will finally start to figure out where that line needs to go.
Joanna is a high school student based in San Diego, California. She is an avid writer and reader and loves anything law or book related. She loves writing anything from poetry to novel work, and aspires to be a lawyer in the future.