YouTube is allowing conservative pundit Steven Crowder to monetize his YouTube channel again, more than one year after Crowder was removed from the company’s Partner Program following complaints of homophobic and racist harassment from another creator.
“Creators who are suspended from [YouTube’s Partner Program] can reapply for access, and after careful consideration, we will be reinstating him into the program today,” a YouTube spokesperson told The Verge. “If there are further violations on this channel we will take appropriate action.”
Crowder lost his monetization privileges (which include the ability to run ads) after former Vox.com host and YouTube creator Carlos Maza tweeted a lengthy thread showing instances where Crowder used homophobic language. Crowder responded to Maza by calling his comments “harmless ribbing.” At the time, Crowder was also selling a T-shirt on his website that featured an image with a homophobic slur with one letter omitted.
“YouTube has a tremendous profit incentive to keep hate speech on the platform,” Maza tweeted following the news of Crowder’s reinstatement into the program. “Hate performs well and drives up the company’s numbers. It has never had any interest in enforcing its rules, and uses them solely to distract journalists.”
At first, YouTube decided that Crowder’s content did not violate the company’s harassment policies. As the company faced more pressure, YouTube’s team took action citing a “pattern of egregious actions has harmed the broader community and is against our YouTube Partner Program policies” at the time. Crowder was suspended from June 5th, 2019 until August 12th, 2020. Not all videos will automatically run ads, and videos must comply with YouTube’s advertising guidelines.
(Disclosure: Vox.com is a publication of Vox Media, which also owns The Verge.)
YouTube said it stood behind the initial suspension but was lifting the penalties because of Crowder’s improved behavior on the platform since the incident. “Over a year ago, Steven Crowder was suspended from the YouTube Partner Program (YPP) for harassing a fellow creator and harming the YouTube community,” the YouTube spokesperson said. “This incident exposed gaps in our Community Guidelines, so last December we updated our policies to better address patterns of harassing behavior and our work here is ongoing. Separately, Mr. Crowder has also taken steps to address the behavior that led to his suspension and has demonstrated a track record of policy-compliant behavior.”
In response to Crowder, YouTube has instituted a series of new policies, including one that targets creator-on-creator harassment (designed to prevent “content that harms the YouTube ecosystem by persistently inciting hostility between creators,” according to Google’s policies). CEO Susan Wojcicki spoke about “problematic” content that didn’t fall under YouTube’s previous harassment and hate speech policies in an interview with vlogger Alfie Deyes back in August 2019. At the time, YouTube was preparing to draft a new policy for creator-on-creator harassment.
“The policy has to be written in such a way that creators can comment on each other and criticize each other,” Wojcicki said. “The question is how do you draw the difference between creators criticizing each other and being a part of this free speech and open ideas, and then where do you draw the line? Where do they cross the line? When it’s no longer just ideas, but they’re criticizing them as a person.”
In order for channels to be reinstated in the Partner Program, creators must remove content that triggered suspension, participate in trainings on the company’s policies, and establish a track record of good behavior. The videos that triggered Crowder’s suspension targeting Maza have been removed from the platform, according to the company.
YouTube routinely reiterates that its content policies are different from its advertising policies, and what may be allowed to remain on the platform isn’t the same as what’s eligible for monetization. Still, Crowder’s channel features videos that use inciting and transphobic language. One recent video labels the Black Lives Matter movement a “domestic terrorist organization” and another video from six months ago titled “WHEN TRANSGENDERS ATTACK!” The Verge has reached out to YouTube about these videos and whether they violate either the company’s policies or its advertising guidelines.