News & Opinion | June 6, 2019 11:56 am

YouTube Is Cracking Down on Hate Speech and Harmful Content

The platform is breaking with its long-held tradition of allowing potentially objectionable content

YouTube will remove many problematic videos from its site
YouTube will remove many problematic videos from its site
Sara Kurfess/Unsplash

As anyone who’s ever spent an afternoon down a YouTube rabbit hole knows, there are many sides to the platform some more questionable than others. Fortunately, the streaming service is finally taking steps to clean up some of its uglier corners.

On Wednesday, YouTube announced it would remove many videos containing harmful content, Reuters reported. The videos to be taken down include those that deny “well-documented violent events,” such as the Holocaust or school shootings, took place. YouTube will also remove content that promotes hate speech and discriminatory ideologies.

The streaming service also announced it will stop sharing ad revenue with channels that toe the line when it comes to violating YouTube’s hate speech rules.

The new policy marks a major reversal for YouTube, which has long been firm in allowing a diverse range of content, even at the risk of permitting harmful and objectionable content. Critics have increasingly called for YouTube to adjust its policies, accusing the streaming service of providing a platform for hate speech and harassment.

However, YouTube’s new policy reversal has attracted controversy of its own, with some critics arguing that the move threatens free speech and impedes users’ ability to monetize their content.

“Taking steps impacting people’s speech should be done with care, with attention to context, with clarity and transparency, and a meaningful, timely opportunity to appeal,” said Katharine Trendacosta, manager of policy and activism at the online rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation. “What YouTube is doing does not appear to follow these ideas.”

Meanwhile, others have argued that YouTube’s new policies are merely a small step in the right direction.

“While this is an important step forward, this move alone is insufficient and must be followed by many more changes from YouTube and other tech companies to adequately counter the scourge of online hate and extremism,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, in a statement.

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