YouTube declines to take action against commentator accused of racist, homophobic harassment

YouTube on Tuesday night said it will not take action against conservative commentator Steven Crowder, a popular YouTuber with nearly 4 million followers who has been accused of engaging in targeted homophobic and racist harassment against journalist Carlos Maza for the past two years.

The Google-owned company in a series of after-hours tweets to Maza wrote that the videos he had flagged in a viral Twitter thread "don’t violate our policies." 

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"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. 

"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," the tech behemoth wrote. "Opinions can be deeply offensive, but if they don’t violate our policies, they’ll remain on our site." 

Steven Crowder, who brands himself as the host of YouTube's "NUMBER ONE conservative late night comedy show," has been making videos targeting Maza since Maza started working at Vox Media two years ago. Crowder in videos aimed at "debunking" Maza's Vox Media video series has called Maza a "lispy queer," a "little queer," "Mr. Gay Vox," and a multitude of other derogatory names. 

His loyal base of followers has at various points "doxxed" Maza, meaning they have shared his personal information and sent him hundreds of threatening messages.

And in the days since Maza came out publicly against Crowder, he said he has received a deluge of hateful and aggressive harassment from Crowder's fans, who have posted his personal information on major and fringe platforms. 

In a viral Twitter thread last week, which had accrued 64,800 likes and 17,600 retweets by Tuesday night, Maza accused YouTube of "helping incredibly powerful cyberbullies organize and target people they disagree with." 

And on Tuesday, following YouTube's decision to not take action against Crowder, Maza wrote YouTube "has decided that targeted racist and homophobic harassment does not violate its policies against hate speech or harassment."

"If you’re an LGBT creator, @YouTube is using you," Maza wrote. "They’re trotting you out to convince advertisers that their platform hasn’t become a breeding ground for hate speech and bigotry. They’re hoping you’ll distract advertisers away from the monsters they’re creating." 

YouTube has explicit policies against "harassment and cyberbullying," defined on its website as "content or behavior intended to maliciously harass, threaten, or bully others."

The video-sharing website has been accused for years of enabling and allowing hate speech to proliferate across its platform, and failing to take action while white nationalists and neo-Nazis amassed loyal followings and monetized their content to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

But YouTube is also under pressure from conservatives, including President TrumpDonald John TrumpSupreme Court comes to Trump's aid on immigration Trump is failing on trade policy Trump holds call with Netanyahu to discuss possible US-Israel defense treaty MORE, who have accused the country's largest tech platforms of being biased against right-wing perspectives. 

Supporters of Crowder's over the past week have started selling T-Shirts that say "Carlos Maza is a F*g," Maza tweeted earlier on Tuesday. 

Vox Media publisher Melissa Bell in a statement reported by The Wall Street Journal called YouTube "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," she wrote. "They encourage their fans to follow suit and we now see our reporters and creators consistently targeted by the worst abuse online, with no remedy or ability to protect themselves." 

Crowder in a video brushed off his comments on videos about Maza as jokes and apologized for his conduct. On Tuesday night, he posted a GIF on Twitter.

According to YouTube, the investigative team determined that Crowder in the flagged videos was not engaged in targeted harassment because he did not instruct his viewers to harass Maza. The company said the videos were geared towards responding to Maza's opinion rather than harassing or threatening him.

YouTube said "behavior that is never okay" includes encouraging viewers to harass anyone or sharing their personal information. While Crowder's fans have "doxxed" Maza, Crowder himself has not revealed Maza's personal information, according to YouTube.  

But YouTube's harassment policies extend beyond "doxxing." YouTube's guidelines bar content that promotes "hurtful and negative personal comments/videos about another person." 

Maza on Tuesday said the company is not enforcing its own community standards. 

"I appreciate everyone sending me support right now, but if you want to help, you should be focusing your attention on @YouTube and @TeamYouTube,which is trying to figure out a way to avoid enforcing its anti-harassment policies," Maza tweeted on Tuesday night to his more than 100,000 followers. "They only respond to public pressure."