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YouTube Walks Back Defense Of Commentator Accused Of Homophobic Harassment [UPDATED]

The social media giant previously told Vox's Carlos Maza that "deeply offensive" opinions don't violate its anti-harassment policies.

UPDATE: June 5 ― YouTube announced on Wednesday that it would temporarily demonetize content creator Steven Crowder, whose homophobic and racist videos led to the harassment of Vox journalist Carlos Maza.

But the company also said that Crowder has an easy avenue toward redemption, by removing links to T-shirts he has on his videos.

In any case, for Maza and others, YouTube’s move didn’t fix the issue at hand: Crowder’s use of his platform to spew hate at his victims, after which some of his millions of followers have harassed and threatened them.

Last week, Maza came forward about that harassment campaign, which he says he’s faced for years.

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YouTube on Tuesday declined to take action against a popular right-wing commentator who has been accused of a yearslong campaign of homophobic and racist harassment against a Vox Media reporter.

Carlos Maza wrote a series of widely shared tweets last month about Steven Crowder, a conservative YouTuber with nearly 4 million subscribers who has published many videos mocking Maza and his Vox show, “Strikethrough.” In the videos, Crowder regularly refers to Maza with derogatory language. Maza said he wasn’t angry with Crowder himself but rather YouTube’s refusal to flex its regulatory muscles.

The social media giant responded Tuesday, saying it had conducted a thorough investigation but found Crowder’s videos did not violate YouTube policies and would remain online.

“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 wrote on Twitter. “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.”

YouTube has hate speech and public harassment and cyberbullying policies that state “content or behavior intended to maliciously harass, threaten or bully others is not allowed” on the platform.

Maza replied to the decision on Twitter later Tuesday, saying he simply didn’t “know what to say.” He also noted that he had received a wave of hateful messages from Crowder’s followers since first posting on Twitter, noting that even if the channels had been taken down he’d likely still be subjected to such treatment.

“It’s going to get so much worse now,” Maza wrote. ”[YouTube] has publicly stated that racist and homophobic abuse don’t violate their anti-bullying policies. Crowder and his allies are going to be emboldened.”

He added: “I genuinely can’t imagine what LGBT employees at YouTube are doing right now.”

Several members of the media pointed to the social media network’s public-facing brands and social accounts after the decision, noting that YouTube has widely shared an image of its logo in rainbow colors in celebration of Pride Month.

Vox, Maza’s employer, said in a statement Tuesday that YouTube “appears to be broken in some ways that we can’t tolerate.”

“By refusing to take a stand on hate speech, they allow the worst of their communities to hide behind cries of ‘free speech’ and ‘fake news’ all while increasingly targeting people with the most offensive and odious harassment,” Melissa Bell, Vox Media’s publisher, wrote. “Youtbe must do better and enforce their own policies and remove creators who promote hate.”

Maza issued his own call to action to prominent LGBTQ creators on the platform in the wake of YouTube’s decision.

“You have an incredible opportunity to raise hell for a company that’s been exploiting you for a while now,” he wrote. “It’s fucking Pride month. Use our power. Other queer creators are counting on you.”

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