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YouTube CEO asked if apology to LGBTQ creators sincere, crowd applauds

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YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki was asked during a recent conference interview whether she was actually sorry about how the company’s decision to keep a series of videos up from a creator that repeatedly used homophobic slurs to describe a journalist had impacted the LGBTQ+ community.

The question, asking whether Wojcicki was legitimately sorry or “just sorry that they were offended” was posed Monday during Vox Media’s Code Conference in Scottsdale, Arizona.

It drew a round of applause from the audience.

The question followed a week of conflict for YouTube that saw the platform’s relationship with LGBTQ+ creators become increasingly strained. YouTube declined to remove videos containing homophobic epithets by a prominent conservative media personality, choosing instead to demonetize his channel.

“You started off with an apology to the LGBTQ community, but then you also said that you were involved, and that you think YouTube made the right call,” Axios chief technology correspondent Ina Fried asked Wojcicki. “A lot of people don’t really feel like that’s an apology, and are concerned that YouTube flags LGBT positive content just for being LGBT as sometimes sensitive and yet, slurs are allowed.”

“I’m curious, are you really sorry for anything to the LGBTQ community, or are you just sorry that they were offended?” Fried asked, to which the audience applauded.

Wojcicki responded saying that while she is “personally very sorry,” as a company, “we don’t want to just be knee-jerk” in making decisions about removing content.

“As a company we really want to support this community, it’s just that from a policy standpoint, we need to be consistent,” Wojcicki said. “If we took down that content, there would be so much other content that we would need to take down.”

“We’ll speak to people from the LGBTQ community, make sure that we’re incorporating (their feedback) going forward in terms of how we think about harassment, and then make sure that we’re implementing that in a fair and consistent way going forward,” Wojcicki continued.

YouTube’s week from hell

The controversy involving YouTube stemmed from Vox journalist Carlos Maza’s denouncement of conservative media star Steven Crowder, who repeatedly mocked Maza’s sexual orientation and ethnicity in YouTube videos with slurs including “lispy queer.” Five days after Maza took to Twitter to highlight Crowder’s attacks, YouTube announced that Crowder was not in violation of any policies.

One day later on June 5, YouTube partially reneged: The platform demonetized Crowder’s videos “because of a pattern of egregious actions” that “has harmed the broader community and is against our YouTube Partner Program.” YouTube also updated its hate speech policy, “prohibiting videos alleging that a group is superior in order to justify discrimination, segregation or exclusion.”

The content of YouTube’s policy update was criticized as weak and its timing suspect. However, at Monday’s conference, Wojcicki noted that YouTube has made 30 policy changes in the past year about how the platform handles hate speech. Furthermore, she said the reforms announced on June 5 were underway before the Maza scandal.

Watch Fried’s question here:

Benjamin Goggin, Nick Bastone, Rob Price, and Mary Hanbury contributed to this article.

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