YouTube has banned videos that “maliciously insult” people based on their race, gender or sexual orientation, in a major crackdown on “toxic” users.
In overhauling its harassment policy the Google-owned platform said it would also demonetise channels which engaged in “a pattern of repeated behaviour across multiple videos or comments, even if any individual video doesn’t cross our policy line”.
Repeat offenders could see some videos or even their entire channel removed, bosses said.
It follows a backlash against YouTube’s decision not to take down videos by a conservative commentator who repeatedly attacked Vox producer Carlos Maza using homophobic insults.
Steven Crowder derided Mr Maza as a “lispy queer” in a string of commentaries earlier this year.
In a video posted this week Mr Crowder described YouTube’s move as a “purge”, and added that he was “certainly not sorry for the content we’ve created and that you’ve come to enjoy”.
He added: “My heart goes out to, if there are any future conservatives or future independent voices, who are affected because some people got their feelings hurt.”
Writing on YouTube’s blog, its vice president Matt Halprin said an appeal process would be instituted for creators who felt they had been wronged by bans under the new system.
He added: “As we make these changes, it’s vitally important that YouTube remain a place where people can express a broad range of ideas, and we’ll continue to protect discussion on matters of public interest and artistic expression.
“We also believe these discussions can be had in ways that invite participation, and never make someone fear for their safety.”
Mr Halprin said the company would apply the same rules to “truly toxic” comments underneath videos, where he said was “often where creators and viewers encounter harassment”.
“This behaviour not only impacts the person targeted by the harassment, but can also have a chilling effect on the entire conversation,” he wrote, adding that responses that were merely negative or critical were not being targeted.
Mr Maza was sceptical of the planned changes. On Twitter, he said: “YouTube loves to manage PR crises by rolling out vague content policies they don’t actually enforce.
“These policies only work if YouTube is willing to take down its most popular rule-breakers. And there’s no reason, so far, to believe that it is.”
YouTube has struggled in the past to balance its relationship with creators with its need to make money from advertising. Video-makers have long complained about administrators’ approach to the demonetisation of content that is deemed non-advertiser friendly, calling it opaque and difficult to challenge.
People who rely on the platform for their income have been blindsided by some changes, they have complained.
At the same time, YouTube has faced pressure from advertisers themselves over bosses’ failure to prevent their platform from being exploited by paedophiles. Major brands have pulled promotional material as recently as this year over the use of comments to link together suggestive videos of children.
YouTube has also been accused of “actively” pushing users to consume extremist content through the algorithm it uses to recommend new videos to watch.