Content moderation is a harder job than ever, in no small part because its potential impact is no longer limited to the platform itself—especially when the figures at the center of the conflict have significant profiles of their own.
Last week, YouTube found its content moderation practices heavily scrutinized by the online public after it chose to “demonetize” the channel of a popular conservative commentator, Steven Crowder. Crowder had made a string of comments criticizing a video producer for the website Vox that were widely seen as homophobic. The producer, Carlos Maza, raised the issue on Twitter, a platform YouTube doesn’t own, so the bulk of the conflict took place outside of YouTube’s walled garden.
But it was still YouTube’s problem. The Google-operated video service was caught between a rock and a hard place: Both parties in the conflict are well-known figures with significant fan bases, so no matter what decision it made, people were going to be mad. The company’s rules on harassment explicitly ban “hurtful” language, but YouTube failed to stick to its own moderation rules in initially siding with Crowder. That led to more attention, and YouTube had to modify its response.
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