The War Between Vox, Steven Crowder, and YouTube: A Recap

I bet you’re wondering why #VoxAdpocalypse has been trending on Twitter for the past day. I bet you’re wondering why figs have grown in popularity online overnight. I even bet you’re wondering why YouTube has been taking a lot of flack over the past few days. After all, you did click on this article. You’ve gotta be curious about what this whole YouTube-Vox-Carlos Maza-Conservative-Steven Crowder-Harassment debacle is.

That’s why I wrote this piece. I’m gonna try to clear the air a bit and give you a rundown of what exactly is going on between Carlos Maza, an openly-gay reporter at Vox, and Steven Crowder, an openly-conservative comedian who hosts a late-night show called Louder with Crowder.

Here’s a rundown of the war between Vox, Steven Crowder, and YouTube.

May 29th, 2019: Steven Crowder Uploads “VOX REBUTTAL: Conservatives Control the Media?!” to YouTube

On May 29th, 2019, just like many of his previous videos, Crowder uploaded a clip of his show to YouTube in which he hosted a segment entitled VOX REBUTTAL. The segment is meant to allow Crowder and his co-hosts to express their own opinions on the arguments presented by Vox’s own videos, often hosted by Carlos Maza in the segment Strikethrough.

The latest rebuttal contradicted Maza’s idea that the mainstream media is heavily influenced by “right-wing nonsense.” To avoid the risk of misquotation, I’ve embedded both videos below for you to dissect and draw your own conclusions on.

May 30th, 2019: Carlos Maza Shares His Thoughts on Crowder in a Twitter Thread

After what Maza said was “years” of “ridiculous harassment,” the Vox reporter shared his thoughts on Crowder in a relatively lengthy Twitter thread late at night on Thursday, May 30th, 2019.

In the thread, Mazaa includes a video that’s been edited to include the various remarks and comments made by Crowder about his sexual orientation, race, and personality. The full thread can be found here. The video in question can be found below.

May 31st, 2019: YouTube Formally Announces Investigation into Crowder and Maza’s Case

Almost a full day after Maza posted his Twitter thread, YouTube formally announced an investigation into Crowder’s comments toward the Vox reporter. The Verge was among the first to report the investigation.

Oddly enough, YouTube didn’t provide any specifics surrounding its investigation at this time. It simply stated it was investigating Crowder’s channel and/or video(s). That’s it. It was then up to the public to decide whether that meant fully cracking down on Crowder or simply review the video at hand.

June 4th, 2019: YouTube Concludes Investigation, Says Crowder Didn’t Violate Any Policies with Comments

As it turned out, YouTube’s investigation was used to see whether Crowder was in the wrong in this single instance. After a few day’s of silence, the company replied to Maza on Twitter and stated that “while [they] found language that was clearly hurtful, the videos as posted don’t violate [their] policies.”

The company then provided clarification that confirmed while viewpoints can be offensive, if certain videos don’t violate policies, there’s nothing YouTube can do.

June 4th, 2019: Carlos Maza Defenders Spark Outrage

After YouTube made this announcement, outrage was sparked online by Carlos Maza and those that support him. Maza wrote out another Twitter thread soon afterward expressing his disappointment in YouTube, specifically when it comes to creators who are a part of the LGBTQ community.

June 5th, 2019: YouTube Demonetizes Crowder’s Channel

Following mounting pressure to do more than just let the situation go, YouTube announced it would be demonetizing Crowder’s entire channel, meaning Crowder and his team could no longer use Google’s ads to make money. It wasn’t clear why at first, but the company later gave a couple of examples as to what lead them to this decision.

One of them was Crowder’s t-shirts. In the Louder with Crowder Shop, there’s a shirt that reads “Socialism is For Figs” with the word “Figs” in place as an alternative to a certain slur. By removing links to the shirt and following other requests, YouTube said Crowder could have his monitization re-instated. The links weren’t removed, but Shopify, who hosts the Louder with Crowder Shop, did take the shirt down manually.

That afternoon, Crowder declared the “Vox Adpocalypse.” Not only was his account demonetized, but so were a number of others as YouTube introduced a ban on supremacist content on its platform, causing many right-wing and independent creators to lose access to the necessary tools required to make revenue with ads on their videos. The hashtag “#VoxAdpocalypse” quickly began trending on Twitter, and so did the conversation surrounding figs, for obvious reasons.

Crowder later hosted a huge livestream with his lawyer Bill Richmond as they awaited responses from YouTube concerning what they should do next. You can watch the livestream in full below.

June 6th, 2019: YouTube Says It Will Reconsider Harassment Policies, Clarifies Its Stance

The internet can put pressure on anything and not stop. That’s what caused today’s announcement from YouTube that the company will begin to reconsider its own harassment policies, potentially making them more strict and resulting in the termination of Crowder’s channel. The company wrote up a huge blog post that was published this morning detailing why it feels the need to refine its policies and what caused this change of thought.

YouTube’s blog post states that the company has an “open platform” that hosts “opinions and views that many, [themselves] included, may find offensive.” But if the content in question doesn’t cross any boundaries, there isn’t much YouTube can do.

I wanted to include four paragraphs from the company’s blog post as I feel these are the most important to note. I’m not trying to set a narrative or tell you what/who to believe. What I am telling you to do is understand YouTube’s position on the subject and draw your own conclusion.

As an open platform, we sometimes host opinions and views that many, ourselves included, may find offensive. These could include edgy stand-up comedy routines, a chart-topping song, or a charged political rant — and more. Short moments from these videos spliced together paint a troubling picture. But, individually, they don’t always cross the line.

There are two key policies at play here: harassment and hate speech. For harassment, we look at whether the purpose of the video is to incite harassment, threaten or humiliate an individual; or whether personal information is revealed. We consider the entire video: For example, is it a two-minute video dedicated to going after an individual? A 30-minute video of political speech where different individuals are called out a handful of times? Is it focused on a public or private figure? For hate speech, we look at whether the primary purpose of the video is to incite hatred toward or promote supremacism over a protected group; or whether it seeks to incite violence. To be clear, using racial, homophobic, or sexist epithets on their own would not necessarily violate either of these policies. For example, as noted above, lewd or offensive language is often used in songs and comedic routines. It’s when the primary purpose of the video is hate or harassment. And when videos violate these policies, we remove them.

Not everyone will agree with the calls we make — some will say we haven’t done enough; others will say we’ve gone too far. And, sometimes, a decision to leave an offensive video on the site will look like us defending people who have used their platforms and audiences to bully, demean, marginalize or ignore others. If we were to take all potentially offensive content down, we’d be losing valuable speech — speech that allows people everywhere to raise their voices, tell their stories, question those in power, and participate in the critical cultural and political conversations of our day.

Even if a creator’s content doesn’t violate our community guidelines, we will take a look at the broader context and impact, and if their behavior is egregious and harms the broader community, we may take action. In the case of Crowder’s channel, a thorough review over the weekend found that individually, the flagged videos did not violate our Community Guidelines. However, in the subsequent days, we saw the widespread harm to the YouTube community resulting from the ongoing pattern of egregious behavior, took a deeper look, and made the decision to suspend monetization. In order to be considered for reinstatement, all relevant issues with the channel need to be addressed, including any videos that violate our policies, as well as things like offensive merchandise.

The debate as to whether Maza or Crowder is in the wrong is still heated, and it doesn’t appear to be slowing down any time soon. This story is far from over, and I’ll be updating it with future developments as they occur.

Notably, I reached out to both Maza and Crowder for comment, but neither responded by press time.