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Google CEO prepares increased crackdown on controversial content — even if it 'doesn't exactly violate policies'

Free speech fight

Getty Images/Smith Collection/Gado/Contributor

Google CEO Sundar Pichai has signaled that YouTube has plans to expand its crackdown on controversial content into areas including what the organization refers to as "borderline content."

Pichai made the remarks in an Axios interview published Sunday. The interview was purportedly conducted prior to YouTube's official announcement of a new policy cracking down on controversial content.

One person impacted by the move was Blaze Media's conservative commentator Steven Crowder. YouTube demonetized Crowder's channel after a Vox employee complained that Crowder had been using homophobic language.

What are the details?

During the interview, Pichai said that the plan for banishing controversial content on Google-owned YouTube is ever-evolving.

"Look," he said, "we aren't quite where we want to be," and noted that Google itself "[ranks] content based on quality."

"[W]e are bringing that same notion and approach to YouTube so that we can rank higher quality stuff better and really prevent borderline content," Pichai added.

So, uh, what's 'borderline content?'

"Borderline content," according to Pichai, is "content which doesn't exactly violate policies, which need to be removed, but which can still cause harm."

Google, said Pichai, "rank[s] content based on quality." They plan to apply that same approach to YouTube. "And so we are bringing that same notion and approach to YouTube so that we can rank higher quality stuff better and really prevent borderline content," he said.

Pichai also seemed to indicate that YouTube isn't even sure what hate speech is and is not, calling the move a "societal problem," because "we need better frameworks around what is hate speech, what is not, and how do we, as a company, make those decisions at scale and get it right without making mistakes."

In a Wednesday statement, YouTube updated its rules of conduct.

"YouTube has always had rules of the road, including a longstanding policy against hate speech," YouTube said in a statement. "Today, we're taking another step in our hate speech policy by specifically prohibiting 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."

"We will begin enforcing this updated policy today; however, it will take time for our systems to fully ramp up and we'll be gradually expanding coverage over the next several months," the company's statement continued, adding, "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," the announcement continued. "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."

Exclusive interview: Google CEO Sundar Pichai defends YouTube practices www.youtube.com

(H/T: Daily Wire)

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