YouTube Updates its Policies on Harassment, Expanding Definitions of Personal Attacks

YouTube Updates its Policies on Harassment, Expanding Definitions of Personal Attacks


YouTube has announced an expansion of its policies around user harassment, which will now cover “veiled or implied” threats, insults based on race, sexual orientation or gender and repeated attacks over time.

Specifically, YouTube says that it will now:

  • Prohibit veiled or implied threats, including content simulating violence toward an individual, and/or language suggesting physical violence may occur
  • Take action against content “that maliciously insults someone based on protected attributes, such as their race, gender expression, or sexual orientation” 
  • Implement new restrictions on accounts which repeatedly engage in harassing behavior which comes close to violating its harassment policy: “Channels that repeatedly brush up against our harassment policy will be suspended from YPP, eliminating their ability to make money on YouTube. We may also remove content from channels if they repeatedly harass someone. If this behavior continues, we’ll take more severe action including issuing strikes or terminating a channel altogether”.

The change comes after many YouTube users called for more action over such behavior, which up till now hasn’t crossed the line, according to the platform’s rules.

In one particularly high profile case, Vox writer Carlos Maza called on YouTube to take action after repeatedly being singled out and insulted in videos posted by conservative YouTuber Steven Crowder.

Since I started working at Vox, Steven Crowder has been making video after video “debunking” Strikethrough. Every single video has included repeated, overt attacks on my sexual orientation and ethnicity. Here’s a sample:

— Carlos Maza (@gaywonk) May 31, 2019

Back in June, YouTube said that Crowder’s videos did not violate its rules.

As per YouTube:

“While we found language [in Crowder’s videos] that was clearly hurtful, the videos, as posted, don’t violate our policies. […] As an open platform, it’s crucial for us to allow everyone – from creators to journalists to late-night TV hosts – to express their opinions w/in the scope of our policies. Opinions can be deeply offensive, but if they don’t violate our policies, they’ll remain on our site.”

But that case may well have acted as the spark which prompted YouTube to review its policies. Now, some of Crowder’s videos look set to be removed under these revised harassment rules.

In addition to these changes, YouTube is also implementing the same, more stringent restrictions on comments, while its also rolling out a new comment filter tool to some of its larger profiles.

When we’re not sure a comment violates our policies, but it seems potentially inappropriate, we give creators the option to review it before it’s posted on their channel. Results among early adopters were promising – channels that enabled the feature saw a 75% reduction in user flags on comments. Earlier this year, we began to turn this setting on by default for most creators.”

The latest update will see more toxic comments highlighted to creators through this process.

At the same time, YouTube has also put out a call to creators to have their say about the latest COPPA regulations relating to content aimed at children. YouTube says that, while it supports the increased COPPA regulation to protect younger users, the current guidelines have made it difficult for some creators to understand what is and is not acceptable.

“We strongly support COPPA’s goal of providing robust protections for kids and their privacy. We also believe COPPA would benefit from updates and clarifications that better reflect how kids and families use technology today, while still allowing access to a wide range of content that helps them learn, grow and explore.”

The actions are the latest in YouTube’s ongoing refinements to improve its systems and ensure that it remains a safe place, both for users and advertisers, free, as possible, of harassment, misinformation and abuse. Late last month, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki provided an update on the platform’s progress in these areas, underlining its commitment to improvement in each respect. And while such tasks are likely never going to address all concerns, YouTube does appear to be making inroads, and responding to community concerns.

You can read more about YouTube’s latest rule changes here.

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