YouTube CEO Apologizes Over Handling of Homophobic Content

YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki
FilmMagic for YouTube

YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki apologized Monday for her company’s handling last week of anti-gay comments that appeared on the video platform.

“I know the decision we made was very hurtful to the LGBT community and that was not our intention at all,” she said in the opening remarks of an interview she gave on stage at the Code Conference in Scottsdale, Ariz.

But Wojcicki also stood by her decision to not remove the offending videos featuring YouTube commentator Steven Crowder, who repeatedly mocked a journalist at Vox, Carlos Maza, with homophobic and racist verbiage.

Not only did that decision draw criticism of YouTube and Wojcicki, but so did a later comment made by the company that stood by the decision but acknowledged its harassment policies required further review. While YouTube didn’t remove the offending videos, Crowder’s videos were demonetized.

Wojcicki explained the difficulties inherent in assessing the appropriateness of any one video without taking into account the context in which problematic speech is made.
“We don’t want to be knee jerk,” she said. “We need to have consistent policies.”

Wojcicki cited recent changes YouTube has made in its dealings with hate speech on its platform — just one of 30 policy changes that have kept the company busy over the past 12 months.

She also emphasized that while YouTube may seem continuously mired in controversies about objectionable content on its platform, they represent a small minority of a much bigger whole that are largely positive. Moreover, Wojcicki noted that YouTube has continued to improve the tools with which it monitors its platform, and will continue to do so.

She also addressed a recent New York Times article that suggested YouTube’s recommendation algorithms were capable of radicalizing users by over-serving right-wing propaganda. Wojcicki pointed to new tools adopted in January this year that have greatly reduced the amount of “borderline” content that could offend users.