Pride started as a riot so I feel like I want to riot right now

This harassment works because it makes you want to give up

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It’s Pride month right now and one of the ways you may have been made aware of that if you are a fan of YouTube is that the thousand-eyed video-streaming leviathan has changed all of its avatars on social media to a rainbow flag which is a very nice of them and an easy way to make LGBT people feel comfortable and welcome utilizing their service.

This openness is something brands often want to communicate to their customers like for example I just saw AXE body spray doing it on Twitter. There’s a straight pride parade being planned in Boston apparently and people have made a lot of jokes about what that might look like and so on how would you know it was different than any other day for example and AXE wanted to make sure people know where they stand vis a vis parades.

I don’t think it would be out of line as a straight cis white man for me to say thank you to AXE body spray on behalf of everyone everywhere. In any case Pride has long since become a corporatized event but still you gotta give it up to AXE the famous dick and balls perfume.

Another thing the good allies at YouTube have done this month is produce a video to document the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots the righteously violent protests that took place in New York City on June 28 1969 and which Pride events are actually meant to commemorate.

Thank you to YouTube! But only to a certain extent that is because one thing they have declined to do this Pride month is to protect one of their more popular queer users from a targeted harassment campaign from an even more popular right wing piece of shit.

Yesterday the company told Carlos Maza a queer latino video producer who works for Vox that they would not be taking any steps to stop the widely followed but nonetheless talentless hack Steven Crowder from continuing to harass him over his sexuality and race which is something he has done for years and which has led to Maza’s phone number being doxed and thousands of hateful comments from Crowder’s army of bigots. You can watch a video Maza compiled of Crowder’s sustained abuse here. In it he has refers to him in such terms as anchor baby and lispy queer and token Vox gay atheist sprite among many others.

You may remember Crowder from this thing incidentally.

Real fans will also remember the time he tried to start shit with a union guy at a Michigan protest and got his head turned sideways.

In a thread posted last night TeamYouTube who don’t have a rainbow avi hmmmmm makes you think explained that they did not find the type of videos Crowder produced to be in violation of their policies.

This despite the fact that they have explicitly defined this type of behavior as a violation on their hate speech policies page saying users cannot “Use racial, ethnic, religious, or other slurs where the primary purpose is to promote hatred” or “Use stereotypes that incite or promote hatred based on any of the attributes noted above. This can take the form of speech, text, or imagery promoting these stereotypes or treating them as factual.”

In a response to Gizmodo YouTube explained their decision like so emphasis mine for the lies:

We have strict policies that prohibit harassment on YouTube.

In the first quarter of 2019 we removed 47,443 videos and 10,623 accounts for violation of our policies on cyberbullying and harassment.

We take into consideration whether criticism is focused primarily on debating the opinions expressed or is solely malicious. We apply these policies consistently, regardless of how many views a video has.

In videos flagged to YouTube, Crowder has not instructed his viewers to harass Maza on YouTube or any other platform and the main point of these videos was not to harass or threaten, but rather to respond to the opinion.

There is certain behavior that is never ok: that includes encouraging viewers to harass others online and offline, or revealing nonpublic personal information (doxxing).

None of Maza’s personal information was ever revealed in content uploaded by Crowder and flagged to our teams for review.

Maza has been busy all week trying to bring his situation to the attention of anyone who might give a shit at YouTube and the publicity his case has been getting appears to have worked somewhat. Just today the company announced they would be removing more “hateful and supremacist content” from the platform.

Today, we're taking another step in our hate speech policy by specifically prohibiting videos alleging that a group is superior in order to justify discrimination, segregation or exclusion based on qualities like age, gender, race, caste, religion, sexual orientation or veteran status. This would include, for example, videos that promote or glorify Nazi ideology, which is inherently discriminatory. Finally, we will remove content denying that well-documented violent events, like the Holocaust or the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, took place.

Thank you very much again to YouTube for that.

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It still doesn’t seem like it’s going to help Maza in any case or get Crowder to leave him alone. I spoke with Maza today to talk about his situation and why hateful content has been allowed and in fact encouraged to thrive on the platform for so long. He wasn’t very happy about it and he shouldn’t be and neither should you.

Do you remember the first time Crowder made a video about you?

It was early 2017, after my third or fourth video for Vox, about how late night comedians and satirists were covering Trump better than mainstream journalists were. That was the first time he made a response video to me. He’s made a total of seven. That was the first time I realized he was talking about me and had a huge fanbase because they’d flooded the comment section of the Vox video.

He’s made seven videos just about you?

Yes just rebutting what I did for Vox.

I’m sure he does this for a lot of “the libs” but do you think he’s singled you out for some reason?

I think his audience has a large appetite for anti-Vox content. Before I started working here he was doing rebuttal videos about Vox content that performed really well. It’s because Vox is relatively center-left and tries to be thoughtful as a news outlet that it’s very easy to smear it as the “liberal elite” on the east coast, so people like Crowder eat that shit up. Obviously I’m a particularly easy target because I’m on camera, I’m trying to be funny and personable like a human, and warm, which makes you vulnerable. And also, to most people, I don’t pass as straight, and can come off as being, like, somewhat stereotypically gay, and have some gay mannerism. I certainly don’t shy away from talking about being queer in my videos. It’s just a part of my identity and often of my work. So it’s a really easy target for that crowd.

What are some of the particularly derogatory things he’s said.

He’s called me a lispy queer, a gay Mexican, a fairy, a sprite. He’s made a joke about me eating a lot of dicks, about having my pride parade outfit hiding in the closet. Every time he talks about me he uses a gay affectation, a stereotypically gay voice, to talk about me. It’s like schoolyard bullshit you would hear in any high school in America.

To an extent you are probably used to a certain level of harassment, unfortunately like many on the left and especially women and queer people get. What is it about this one that pushed you to make a big stink about it?

The thing that made it different is he’s coming up on four million subscribers, which is like a small army of people who watch and comment on videos where I’m being made fun of for being gay and Hispanic, which is fucking terrifying. And also it’s just not a good feeling. I remember watching the video where he called me a lispy queer pass a million views and having a fucking miserable feeling. Every time he posts one of these videos I wake up to an avalanche of racist and homophobic abuse on Twitter and now on Instagram and Facebook. It fucks with my ability to do my job, and his fan boys showing up in all my feeds make my life miserable. Last year I got doxxed, my phone number got out, and one of his fans spammed me with like 100 text messages at the exact same time asking me to debate him. I don’t know how they got my number, I still don’t know who has my number, and it’s terrifying. Every time I get a number from an unknown caller my body tenses up.

For fifteen months I didn’t really say anything and told myself I had to let it go. I didn’t even mention it to Vox because it makes you feel like a liability. But after I got doxxed I looked at YouTube’s policies and saw they had anti-harassment, anti-bullying, and ant-hate speech policies and it blew my fucking mind. I was just so used to it I assumed there was no way YouTube cared about this stuff. So after I saw that I asked Vox to ask YouTube if they were going to do anything about this. YouTube didn’t do anything. After that I spent months flagging individual timestamps on Crowder videos to YouTube saying this is targeted harassment please do something. They didn’t do shit.

I wish I could say I planned this to be just in time for Pride month to show how hollow YouTube’s Pride shit is, but I didn’t even think about that. All I thought was this used to be a platform that I thought gave a shit about queer people. I remember growing up watching people like Tyler Oakley and Hannah Hart make weird queer content that felt like we were allowed to be here. YouTube trots those queer creators out every time they need to do a corporate branding stunt and convince advertisers they have some hold on their platform and they aren’t overrun by alt-right assholes, but it’s just bullshit. I was really tired of watching the company make its branding on the backs of queer people and refuse to enforce the basic policies they claim to give a shit about to protect us from abuse.

Did it change how you make your videos?

I found myself worrying about if I was coming off as too gay when I was recording shit and I felt like I was in high school again and it’s because YouTube lets that shit happen. If you let people get abused like this they don’t want to publish on the platform anymore, or at the very least they don’t feel comfortable being themselves on the platform, which ruins the whole point.

I’m sorry you’re going through that. YouTube responded sort of unsatisfactorily to you on Twitter. Is that all you’ve heard from them?

Yeah, they sent me a DM saying just because they had concluded his speech hadn’t violated the rules it didn’t mean that other activity on his account might not violate the rules. He is selling a Socialism is for Faggots shirt on his YouTube channel, I don’t know if they’re doing anything about it, I doubt they will.  I don’t even know the name of the person I talked to at YouTube. The only contact I got was from the TeamYouTube Twitter account. I have no idea who that is or how many people reviewed my case.

Do you feel like Vox has had your back on this?

Vox has totally had my back. Through the whole thing they’ve offered me security services to make sure I feel safe form doxxing, they’ve lobbied YouTube on my behalf, and Melissa Bell our publisher released a statement last night saying this kind of thing is unacceptable. The shitty thing is when you’re a target like this it’s incredibly personal and it feels like it’s just happening to you. There’s only so much an employer can do to protect you when there’s this massive platform that’s making you a target of literally small armies of assholes.

I’ve been through the ringer a couple times myself, not as bad as you. One thing I’ve noticed is, and you’ve probably had a handful of people telling you you suck every day for as long as you’ve been online as well, is that you can brush that off, but there comes a threshold where it starts to bother you.

Yeah I am used to that type of shit, especially making videos about politics, I recognize that a lot of people are going to hate me just because of the shit I say. What blows my mind is that a specific person has a massive platform because YouTube helped him build it. He’s not a random troll or bad actor sending me hate mail, it’s a dude that’s built an army of millions of followers because YouTube recognizes his content is engaging and keeps recommending more people to go in his direction, then monetizes a lot of his videos and makes him a force of real harm in the world. If it weren’t for YouTube he wouldn’t be around. Steven Crowder was fired from Fox News for not being funny enough. He was a nobody. The reason he exists and is powerful is because YouTube has allowed their free technology to be used by bullies and bigots who want to make queer peoples’ lives miserable. If it weren’t for them this wouldn’t be happening. He’s huge, he’s on their radar, they recognize what’s happening, but they don’t do anything about it because it would hurt their bottom line, and they give more of a shit about engagement than keeping queer people and marginalized people who are producing content on the site.

He’s just one example among many of these far right conspiracy theorists and trolls that are all over the place on YouTube. Is InfoWars still on there?

Alex Jones got taken off, but Paul Joseph Watson is still on YouTube. There’s people like Lauren Southern posting white supremacist content on YouTube, Steven Molineaux. You can’t spend more than twenty minutes on poilitical YouTube without having the algorithm recommend you something inflammatory from an alt-right monster. If you compiled all the alt-right content on YouTube and compared it as a vertical, its engagement would match things like music and gaming. It’s not an outlier on the platform, it is one of the central organizing hubs of YouTube’s engagement base. That’s why they don’t do anything about it, because it’s not just Crowder. If they actually took action against Crowder, they’d never stop taking action, because they’ve allowed a whole network of monsters to flourish on that platform. They’re afraid to disarm them because they now they have a tremendous amount of power.

Is this going to dissuade you from keeping at it? Does is make you dispirited like you want to give up?

It’s insanely dispiriting, it’s incredibly demoralizing. More than that it’s infuriating. I feel more anger and rage than I do any other feeling because every sane person knows this is fucked up and YouTube doesn’t just give a shit. And I have to endure them using the Pride logo shit for the rest of the month. Of course it’s made me not want to use YouTube, to quit my job, to retreat into a normal life, which is the point of this harassment. This harassment works because it makes you want to give up. I am unlucky enough that YouTube is a monopoly and content creators have basically nowhere else to go. But I’m lucky enough I can use my platform to keep making YouTube’s life miserable, because if I’m going to be stuck here I might as well use the small influence I have to talk about how destructive YouTube is, and hopefully encourage other queer people and people of color using the platform to use their voices to to hold YouTube to account.

You can’t change the policies of a company like this by appealing to their better angels, they have no better angels. The only way to get them to move is by making it untenable for them to communicate with advertisers and to have a public image when users are revolting and using the voices they have to testify to how awful YouTube is. I hope that happens, because I know this isn’t just about me, and I’m not the one who has gotten it the worst, but it is miserable that we have to get to a point where queer people and people of color have to expose their humiliation to the world to get people to pay attention. It should have been a thing that was resolved years ago, but now it’s on the victims to bring more attention to themselves, re-victimize themselves, just to get you YouTube to give a shit about the communities they claim to care about in the corporate branding materials.

One thing about Crowder, he’s sort of the emblem of how low the bar is for talent to become a celebrity on the right isn’t he? He has no talent, no charisma, is exceptionally unfunny, and yet he’s somehow one of their bigger stars. You can become a celebrity on the right so easily.

Yes, it’s a platform that is built for grifters. If you have no talent and nothing meaningful to say, an easy way to stand out and get attention is by being an asshole. And just making people who are already victimized the butt of your joke or your harassment campaign. You see it in these videos, any time Crowder is dealing with an argument he doesn’t know how to deal with he reverts to making fun of my voice or calling me a lispy queer. It’s lowbrow high school shit, and anybody who experienced this shit growing up knows exactly what it looks like.

It’s not surprising that stuff does well. If I were a teenage boy and a grown man were telling me that my anxieties about gay people and immigrants or muslims was actually right and that all the shameful shit I was thinking was legitimate I would think that person was a hero too. Of course I would attach my whole identity to that person. YouTube is meant to let snake oil salesmen and grifters like that build incredibly loyal audiences. And that’s not unique to YouTube, every platform has grifters who game the engagement algorithm by doing petty evil shit. The way you stop it is by having human beings who have good judgment, by having adults in the room, with the good sense to say this isn’t productive, not contributing to a health speech environment, not conducive to the kind of debate we want to be having…but those adults don’t exist at YouTube. All they have is an algorithm that says this type of stuff is playing well, it’s making us money, we have to protect it at all costs. If that means finding insane loopholes to explain why we’re not enforcing our own anti harassment policies, so be it.

The counter-argument here that’s already happening, which I just saw one of the dumbest guys on Twitter make, is that de-platforming because of something you don’t like is anti-free speech. It’s weird these guys only care about speech when it’s someone on the right.

It’s not a genuine concern about free speech. Legitimate threat to free speech is an environment in which bullies and harassers can use massive platforms to target and push people out of the market. The net result of what’s happening now isn’t that queer people and bigots co-exist in harmony and just talk past each other, it’s that queer people and marginalized people get sick and tired of being attacked by armies of idiots, and they leave the platform. Look at what happens on 4Chan, it is not some healthy free speech environment, it is a platform that has been overrun by the worst of humanity because people don’t want to show up to a platform where they feel like their sexuality and identity can become the butt of multi-million view joke just because they showed up. If you gave a shit about free speech you would give a shit about enforcing policies that restrict the worst excesses of bad actors. Policies that allow creators, especially from marginalized communities, to be able to operate with the trust to know they’re not going to be dragged through the mud just for who they are.

We have meaningful restrictions on speech all the time. You can’t use slurs in healthy public discourse, you can’t shout fire in a theater. We recognize that some shit is harmful to the public and it’s not worth allowing a person to say what they want. YouTube knows this. Theres no way you could think this is contributing to a thoughtful debate. There are smart people there, they see what’s happening to their platform. This debate about restricting speech is an excuse meant to distract from the reality that people are able to use slurs with impunity on the platform and it’s making life miserable for LGBT creators. And that harms speech. It undermines our ability to have healthy conversations between people who disagree with each other.

Are you going to be able to enjoy any Pride events despite all of this?

I hope so. Pride started as a fucking riot so I feel like I want to riot right now. I have a strong urge right now to be around queer people who fucking get it and are pissed as much as I am right now.


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