Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles Peter Kafka: I'm not going to do a long wind-up here, because I have a lot of questions for my next guest. I'm delighted she's here. Please welcome Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube. They gave you a good hip-hop theme for your way in. Susan Wojcicki: Thank you. Thank you for coming. Sure. Thank you for having me. I'm really glad we get to have this conversation. I'm glad we get to do it in public, on a stage, on the record. That's great. Let's start here. There was a bunch of news last week. Some of it involved you. Some of it involved vox.com, where I work. There was a policy change. I think they all sort of happened at the same time. Can we just walk through what happened, and if they're parallel tracks, or if they were connected? Sure. So, first of all, thank you. A lot of things happened last week, and it's great to be here and talk about what happened. But I do want to start, because I know that the decision that we made was very hurtful to the LGBTQ community, and that was not our intention at all. Should we just set context, for anyone who was not following this? What decision this was? Yeah. So, let me ... I'll go into that. But I thought it was really important to be upfront about that, and to say that was not our intention, and we were really sorry about that. But, I do want to explain why we made the decision that we did, as well as give information about the other launch that we had going on. Really, there were two different things that happened at the same time. The first one I'll talk with is, we made a really significant change involving hate speech. This is something we had been working on for months, and we launched it on Wednesday of last week. And this is a series of policy changes you've been rolling out for years now. So, just to be clear ... Yeah. So, we've been making lots of different policy changes on YouTube. We have made about 30 changes in the last 12 months, and this past week, we made a change in how we handle hate speech. That took months and months of work, and hundreds of people we had working on that. That was a very significant launch, and a really important one. What we did with that launch is we made a couple big changes. One of them was to make it so that if there's a video that alleges that some race or religion or gender or group, protected group, is superior in some way, and uses that to justify discrimination or exclusion, that would now no longer be allowed on our platform. Similarly, if you had a religion or race, and they alleged that inferiority, that another group was inferior, and they used that to justify discrimination in one way. Those were changes that we made. So, examples would be like, “Race X is superior to Y, and therefore Y should be segregated.” Is it weird to you that you had to make a rule that said, “This shouldn't be allowed”? That this wasn't covered either by an existing rule? That you had to tell your community, “Look. This is not acceptable”? Well, actually, a lot of this ... We're a global company, of course. And so, if you look at European law, there are a number of countries that have a really strong hate speech law. And so, a lot of this content had never been allowed in those countries, but had actually been allowed in the US and many other countries. And so what we had actually done with it a few years ago is we had actually had limited features, meaning that it wasn't in the recommendations. It wasn't monetized. It had an interstitial in front of it to say that this was content that we found offensive. And when we did that, we actually reduced the views to it by 80 percent. So, we found that it was effective, but we really wanted to take this additional step, and we made this step on Wednesday. We also added, which is really important, a few other definitions to protected groups. So, we added caste, because YouTube has become so significant in India. Then, we also added victims of verified violent events. So, like saying the Holocaust didn't happen, or Sandy Hook didn't happen, also became violations of our policies. And so, this was happening on Wednesday, and we launched it on Wednesday. There were thousands of sites that were affected. And again, this is something that we had been working on ... This was coming already. It was coming already. We had started briefing reporters about it in Europe over the weekend, because they're ahead. You know, the train had left the station. And then at the same — on Friday, there was a video. We heard the allegations from Mr. Carlos Maza, who uploaded a video on Twitter with a compilation Works at vox.com. Who works at vox.com, yes. With a compilation of different video pieces from Steven Crowder's channel, putting them together, right? And asked us to take action. Each of these videos had harassment — Saying, “He's directing slurs at me, and the people who follow him are attacking me outside of YouTube, as well.” Yes. So, he alleged that there was harassment associated with this, and we took a look at this. You know, we tweeted back and we said, “We are looking at it.” You know, Steven Crowder has a lot of videos, so it took some time for us to look at that and to really understand what happened, and where these different snippets had come from and see them in the context of the video. Actually, one of the things I've learned, whenever people say, “There's this video and it's violative. Take it down or keep it up,” you have to actually see the video, because context really, really matters. And so, we looked through a large number of these videos, and in the end we decided that it was not violative of our policies for harassment. So, were you looking at this yourself, personally? Vox is a relatively big site. It's a big creator. Were you involved in this directly? I mean, I am involved whenever we make a really important decision, because I want to be looking at it. So, you were looking at the videos. Well, so we have many, many different reviewers. Mm-hmm. They will do a review. Again, there are lots of different videos produced by Steven Crowder. He's been a longtime YouTuber. But in this case, did you weigh in personally? Did you look at the stuff? I mean, yes. I do look at the videos, and I do look at the reports and the analysis. Again, I want to say there were many videos, and I looked certainly at the compilation video. So, when the team said, “We believe this is non violative. This doesn't violate our rules,” you agreed with that? Well, let me explain to you why. Mm-hmm. Why we said that. But you agreed? I agreed that that was the right decision, and let me explain to you why I agreed that was the right decision. Okay? So, you know, when we got — first of all, when we look at harassment and we think about harassment, there are a number of things that we look at. First of all, we look at the context. Of, you know, “Was this video dedicated to harassment, or was it a one-hour political video that had, say, a racial slur in it?” Those are very different kinds of videos. One that's dedicated to harassment, and one that's an hour-long — so, we certainly looked at the context, and that's really important. We also look and see, is this a public figure? And then the third thing that we look at is, you know, is it malicious? Right? So, is it malicious with the intent to harass? And for right or for wrong right now, malicious is a high bar for us. So the challenge is, like when we get an allegation like this, and we take it incredibly seriously, and I can tell you lots of people looked at it and weighed in. We need to enforce those policies consistently. Because if we were not to enforce it consistently, what would happen is there would be literally millions of other people saying, “Well, what about this video? What about this video? What about this video? And why aren't all of these videos coming down?” And if you look at the content on the internet, and you look at rap songs, you look at late-night talk shows, you look at a lot of humor, you can find a lot of racial slurs that are in there, or sexist comments. And if we were to take down every single one, that would be a very significant — So, to stipulate that you take it seriously. I want to come back to the idea that there's a ton of this stuff here. Well, so what we did commit to — and really, this is I think really important — is we committed, like, “We will take a look at this, and we will work to change the policies here.” We want to be able to — when we change a policy, we don't want to be knee jerk. We don't want it to be like, “Hey, I don't like this video,” or, “This video is offensive. Take it down.” We need to have consistent policies. They need to be enforced in a consistent way. We have thousands of reviewers across the globe. We need to make sure that we're providing consistency. So, your team spends a bunch of time working on it. They come to you at some point and they say, “We don't think this is violative.” You say, “We agree.” You announce that. And then a day later you say, “Actually, we do have problems with this.” Well, so what ... Okay. So, we did announce it, and when we announced it, if you look carefully at the tweet, what we actually said at the end is, “We're looking at other avenues.” Mm-hmm. That's because we actually have two separate processes. One of which is like, “Is this content violative,” from just the purely community guidelines. But then we also have monetization guidelines, and that's because we have a higher standard for monetization. We're doing business with this partner. Our advertisers also have a certain expectation of what type of content they are running on. And so, we had the first review. We said, “It doesn't violate the community guidelines on harassment, but we'll take a look at our harassment guidelines and commit to updating that.” Which actually had been on our plan anyway. I had actually put that in my creator letter that I had just done a few weeks ago, saying we were going to take a hard look at it. But we had been working so hard on the hate speech, and so our teams were caught up on that. But that really had been next on our list. So, we have a higher standard for monetization, so then we did announce the monetization change. That Steven Crowder was, his monetization was suspended. So, was that in reaction to people reacting to you not reacting? No. Or was that something that you were already planning to do and just hadn't gotten around to announcing? No. We were in the process of looking at that, and there were — when we look at these accounts, there are many different components that we look at, and that's actually why we put the line, “There are other avenues that we're still looking at.” And that might have been too subtle. If I were to do it again, I would put it all into one — Do it in one go. Yeah, I would do it all in one go. But we were also — So you said, “We're not kicking you off, but we're not going to help you make money on YouTube. It'll be directly through ads.” We're suspending monetization. Meaning, “We're not going to run ads against your stuff. If you still want to sell racist coffee mugs or whatever you're selling, that's your business, but we're not going to help you. We're not going to put an ad in front of your stuff.” Well, we said we're not going to put an ad in front of it, but the conditions by which we will turn it on can be broader than just that. So, for example, if they're selling merchandise and linking off of YouTube, and that is seen as racist or causing other problems, that's something that we will discuss with the creator. So, one more question specific to this. Because again, we're putting advertising there, so we need to make sure that the advertisers are going to be okay with it, and we have a higher standard. And so, we can sort of look at all different parts of that creator and what they're doing, and basically apply that higher standard there. So, people I work with at Vox and other people are saying the one problem we've got with all this, in addition to what seems like a back and forth, is that we don't understand why you made the decision you made. There's not enough transparency. We can't figure out what rules he did or didn't break. And also, by the way, it seems clear that he did break these rules. But they're asking for transparency, they're asking for more understanding of what went on here in this specific case. Is that something that's reasonable for someone to expect out of you and out of YouTube? To say, “Here's exactly what happened. Here's exactly what broke the rule for us. Here's exactly why we're demonetizing it”? Which case are you talking about? Well, in the case of the Crowder/Maza stuff.