In June 2019, YouTube announced it would prohibit “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.” It shouldn’t have taken a year for the platform to enforce the rule by banning white supremacist thought leaders like Richard Spencer and former KKK head David Duke, and yet, here we are.
A full global pandemic and political revolution later, and finally, YouTube has had enough. According to CNN, the platform has banned “six high-profile white supremacist channels,” this week, including Stefan Molyneux, American Renaissance, and Spencer’s National Policy Institute. When asked by the news network why it took so long, a spokesperson for YouTube responded by saying that a channel has to accrue a certain number of violations before it is taken down. (Something tells me those channels had more than enough violations by June 2019, but I digress.)
Also on Monday, Reddit announced it would ban popular pages that spread hate based on “identity or vulnerability,” beginning with 2,000 subreddits including the right-wing cesspool r/The_Donald, according to Axios. The company said it had approached the most egregious rule-breakers in the subreddit for years before finally banning the channel entirely. Reddit plans on introducing bans to content that “mocks people with physical disabilities, describes a racial minority as sub-human and inferior to the racial majority, argues that rape of women should be acceptable and not a crime and expresses revulsion that people of color have the right to vote.” The New York Times reports that those changes should emerge through the introduction of eight rules, which include, “prohibiting targeted harassment, revealing the identities of others, posting sexually exploitative content related to underage children, or trafficking in illegal substances or other illicit transactions.” How purposefully opaque.
Reddit has long refused to beef up moderation on the site–as Jezebel’s Alexis Sobel Fitts wrote recently, in 2014, Reddit’s CEO, Ellen Pao, was essentially pushed out of her position after eight months by Reddit users and volunteer moderators who disagreed with her banning of subreddits like “r_neofags.” Cleaning up a site known for abuse and hate speech was tricky then. banning r/The_Donald certainly will not be the end of white supremacist rhetoric on the platform now.
That both YouTube and Reddit decided to finally act on the rampant racism and hatred on their sites now, while the world mourns and protests the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and other black Americans by at the hands of the police, feels like doing too little too late. These accounts needed to go long ago.