YouTube is hiring managers to work specifically with progressive political publishers and conservative political publishers as the company faces accusations of censoring right-wing political content amid a crackdown on supremacist content and conspiracy theories.
The new managers will focus on “advising partners on YouTube channel development strategies and representing the political publisher landscape within the organization,” according to the job postings. Managers will also work on “bringing issues to resolution” and “organiz[ing] programs and events to help political publishers best utilize YouTube.”
A spokesperson for YouTube said the roles were a new addition within its news division. “One of the ways we work with top creators is by connecting them with a YouTube Partner Manager,” Ivy Choi, a spokesperson for YouTube, told The Verge. “We have experts for many of our content categories and are growing the partnerships team that works specifically with news creators — for both conservative and progressive news outlets.”
YouTube employs several partner managers to work with creators on a number of different topics, including gaming and beauty. But this new appointment appears to have come in response to the increased criticism around YouTube’s handling of politics. Conservative creators have voiced their frustrations with the company, accusing YouTube of censorship and discrimination against those on the right. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) called out the company after an incident with conservative pundit Steven Crowder, who lost his ad privileges after using homophobic language to talk about Vox reporter Carlos Maza. (Disclosure: Vox is a publication of Vox Media, which also owns The Verge.)
“YouTube is not the Star Chamber — stop playing God and silencing those voices you disagree with,” Cruz tweeted. “This will not end well.”
Conservative creators threatened to leave YouTube en masse in early 2018 because of a perceived “purge” of conservative political content. Pundits, gun advocates, conspiracy channels, and other right-wing voices on YouTube aired their frustrations after people in the community started to receive community strikes or were locked out of their channels.
When YouTube executive Robert Kyncl was pressed about the outcry from the conservative community in May 2018, he told The Hollywood Reporter that the company doesn’t “intend to be on one side or another.“
“Our message is that we absolutely are leaning in to freedom of information and freedom of expression, subject to our community guidelines,” Kyncl said.
The heightened moderation has partly come in response to concerns about YouTube being a gateway for spreading harmful conspiracy theories about major events, including a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in March 2018. A video that called student David Hogg a crisis actor appeared on YouTube’s Trending page, which collects videos and puts an emphasis on them for site users. Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones accused YouTube of censorship against conservatives and political bias when his channel was close to being deleted (before it actually was).
While it may appear to be censorship to some, there’s often little validity to these accusations. In Jones’ case, the two community guideline strikes he received were because he violated YouTube’s guidelines on cyberbullying and harassment, not because of his political views.
Outcries over perceived censorship have seemingly only gotten worse in today’s political climate. YouTube’s decision to hire managers to act as direct liaisons to conservative and progressive creators who have complained that they feel unheard, despite being able to talk to executives like CEO Susan Wojcicki, feels like an obvious next step.