Earlier today, YouTube announced its updated harassment policy which targets creators with harsh punishments for language that goes “too far.” After the policy was announced, many people raised concerns about the vague definition of “harassment” and speculated that it would kill comedy on the site.
Now their fears appear to have been realized with YouTube taking down a video from the popular Content Cop series, removing a video from political commentator Paul Joseph Watson, and vowing to delete several videos from comedian Steven Crowder.
Not only does this move show that comedy videos, videos roasting other creators, and videos that criticize culture and politics are at risk under this new policy but it also confirms that YouTube is retroactively applying its rules to videos that were compliant with its policies when uploaded.
The Leafy Content Cop video from iDubbbz, which poked fun at YouTuber Leafy, was originally uploaded in September 2016. Today, more than three years after the original upload, it was removed for retroactively violating these new harassment policies.
YouTuber Eddy Burback pushed back on the decision and said that even if you “pretend that YouTube removing the leafy content cop was fair,” it raises questions over whether it’s OK for YouTube to remove content that was posted before its guidelines changed.
Drama Alert host Keemstar said YouTube is “killing comedy” by targeting these types of videos and also criticized YouTube’s decision to apply this harassment policy to YouTubers and other public figures:
“We are public figures we are allowed to be roasted! Comes with the gig.”
YouTube’s chief product officer Neil Mohan also told the BBC that it intends to retroactively “delete several of Mr Crowder’s videos that fall foul of the updated harassment policy.”
The day before YouTube announced this updated harassment policy, Crowder posted a video predicting that it would apply retroactively and warned:
“This is a big deal and it will affect a lot of you. It will certainly affect our channel. I don’t know how long we’re going to be here.”
Political commentator Paul Joseph Watson is another YouTuber who has been affected by this retroactive purge. His video Modernity, which criticized various parts of modern culture, was originally uploaded in June and then removed today under this new harassment policy.
Watson described YouTube’s decision to apply this policy retroactively as “egregious” and added: “Many people make a living off YouTube and YouTube is screwing with their lives.”
He said that YouTube’s updated harassment policy appears to be prohibiting the very thing that made YouTube big in the first place – “YouTubers having beef and drama.” The end result is that the lines between criticism and “harassment’ are now blurred and “no one knows where they stand,” added Watson.
YouTube even revealed in comments to the BBC that it had considered removing jokes from President Trump under this policy. While YouTube ultimately didn’t take action against the president, it shows that no YouTuber or public figure, no matter how large they are, is safe from scrutiny and potential removal under this policy.