YouTube bans David Duke and other US far-right users

Six channels with supremacist content ‘repeatedly violated’ the site’s policy on hate speech

YouTube only began changing its guidelines on channels promoting white supremacy in June 2019.
YouTube only began changing its guidelines on channels promoting white supremacy in June 2019. Photograph: Frederic VIELCANET/Alamy Stock Photo
YouTube only began changing its guidelines on channels promoting white supremacy in June 2019. Photograph: Frederic VIELCANET/Alamy Stock Photo
Published on Tue 30 Jun 2020 09.26 EDT

YouTube has banned some of the video site’s most notorious far-right users, including former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, “alt-right” figurehead Richard Spencer and libertarian “race realist” Stefan Molyneux, joining a wave of social media sites taking action against hate speech.

The company says the bans were handed down due to the creators’ repeated violation of YouTube’s policies against claiming that protected groups are “inferior”.

“We have strict policies prohibiting hate speech on YouTube, and terminate any channel that repeatedly or egregiously violates those policies,” a YouTube spokesperson said.

“After updating our guidelines to better address supremacist content, we saw a 5x spike in video removals and have terminated over 25,000 channels for violating our hate speech policies.”

In all, the company terminated six channels: the three personal accounts, as well as Spencer’s Radix organisation, and two channels belonging to far-right publication American Renaissance.

After long insisting that channels that preached white supremacy were within the rules provided they didn’t directly call for violence, YouTube began rewriting its guidelines in 2019. In June of that year, the company changed its hate speech policy to specifically prohibit “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”.

Those changes came after the site had already taken action against high-profile users who had been careless enough to cross the line. Alex Jones, host of InfoWars, was removed from the site in 2018.

Despite the changes, it took more than a year for the policy to result in the removal of the site’s most high-profile supremacists, while other notorious figures remain active on YouTube. EDL co-founder Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, known as Tommy Robinson, was “restricted” on the site in 2019, but is still able to upload videos for pre-existing subscribers, though his account is removed from search results.

The company’s action came the day after Twitch and Reddit both made surprise moves themselves. Reddit deleted more than 2,000 subreddits for repeated rules violations, including The_Donald, the notorious home of the US president’s most ardent fanbase. “To be clear, views across the political spectrum are allowed on Reddit – but all communities must work within our policies and do so in good faith, without exception,” the company’s CEO, Steve Huffman, wrote in a post announcing the policy change.

Livestreaming platform Twitch suspended the Trump campaign’s account for violating its policy against “hateful conduct”. “In line with our policies, President Trump’s channel has been issued a temporary suspension from Twitch for comments made on stream, and the offending content has been removed,” the company said.

All the companies have taken action as an advertising boycott targeting Facebook swells to include companies such as Starbucks, Unilever and Verizon. Coordinated by the Stop Hate for Profit campaign, the boycott prompted an extraordinary response from Mark Zuckerberg on Friday, who announced a raft of concessions against a backdrop of a 7% fall in Facebook’s stock price.