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YouTube unveils tougher harassment policy after controversy

YouTube on Wednesday unveiled a strengthened policy to crack down on harassment after facing a wave of scrutiny over whether it has taken enough responsibility over the scourge of hateful and bigoted content available across its massively popular platform. 

In a blog post, the Google-owned video-sharing platform announced it is taking a stricter stance against “veiled or implied threats,” such as when a YouTube creator suggests he or she will commit violence against someone else but does not explicitly say it.

 

And the company intends to crack down on targeted harassment campaigns, in which a particular creator or group continually targets an individual with hateful comments and content over a long period of time. 

“Harassment hurts our community by making people less inclined to share their opinions and engage with each other,” wrote Matt Halprin, YouTube’s global head of trust and safety.   

The policy updates — which could make it easier for YouTube to punish users — come after the platform faced a whirlwind of protest over its decision not to take action against a conservative commentator accused of engaging in targeted homophobic and racist harassment against a journalist over two years. 

YouTube ultimately decided to take some action against the commentator, Steven Crowder, who has nearly 4 million followers. But the damage was already done: YouTube faced internal and external dissent from critics who said its policies were not strong enough to take on the harassment running rampant on the platform.

Shortly after the Crowder controversy, YouTube agreed to take a look at its policies. Now, the company says it is making changes after consulting with experts on bullying, journalism and free speech from across the political spectrum.

When YouTube announced it was going to punish Crowder over his treatment of the journalist, Carlos Maza, Republican lawmakers battered the platform from the other side, alleging that YouTube was censoring a popular right-wing figure. Conservatives for years have alleged that the top social media platforms, including YouTube, routinely censor right-wing voices.  

YouTube said it anticipates there will be some controversy over its policy changes.    

“We expect there will continue to be healthy debates over some of the decisions and we have an appeals process in place if creators believe we’ve made the wrong call on a video,” Halprin wrote.

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