March 10, 2021
Chief Executive Officer
Dear Susan Wojcicki,
We are writing to you because YouTube continues to shirk its responsibilities towards its users and communities of color across the globe facing violence from white supremacists and other right wing groups.
March 15 will mark two years since a white supremacist killed more than 50 worshippers at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. Multiple reports have found that the shooter was inspired by watching right wing videos on YouTube. One of the latest reports was released this past December by the government of New Zealand reiterating that YouTube was a significant source of disinformation and incitement for the attack.
A YouTube spokesperson responded to this report, saying YouTube has strengthened its hate speech policy, terminated the channels mentioned in the report, and has altered its recommendations system to limit the spread of “borderline content.” Unfortunately these steps are not strong enough as YouTube continues to have a role in spreading anti-Muslim ideology and violence.
For example, YouTube still platforms the channels of major anti-Muslim groups and figures. The David Horowitz Freedom Center, designated as an anti-Muslim hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), has over 25,000 subscribers on its YouTube channel. ACT for America, which Political Research Associates describes as the largest anti-Muslim organization in the United States, has over 80,000 subscribers. Individuals like Steven Crowder, Ben Shapiro, and Paul Joseph Watson each have millions of subscribers despite a long history of anti-Muslim bigotry and Islamophobic statements. Facebook banned Watson back in 2019 for promoting or engaging in violence and hate. And YouTube was one of the last major platforms to take action against Trump in the days following the white supremacist attack on the Capitol, and YouTube has not removed his account despite him having incited against Muslim communities for years.
YouTube defines its mission as: “to give everyone a voice and show them the world.” Unfortunately too many communities feel unsafe due to YouTube continuing
to make money from a business model meant to keep users engaged as long as possible. Creators know there is an audience on YouTube for right wing content–the handful of accounts mentioned above have generated tens of millions of views–and so will continue to upload and share racist content that purposefully spreads disinformation to incite their followers against many communities, including Muslim ones that were targeted in Christchurch in 2019. From 2017 through 2020, YouTube ad revenue went from $8 billion to $20 billion, a 60 percent increase. During that same time period, the SPLC has tracked a consistent increase in hate groups, and an August 2020 poll they conducted revealed that 29 percent of Americans personally know someone who believes that white people are the superior race. The January 6 attack shows the dangers of allowing white supremacist ideology continue to go unchecked.
YouTube lists freedom of opportunity and freedom to belong as values it aspires to, but white supremacists and right wingers should not be given the chance to succeed in spreading their ideology or the ability to find others to support them.
We demand YouTube ramp up its efforts to deplatform content and users inciting hatred and violence against Muslims, and do so in coordination with impacted communities who understand the nuances of the many ways anti-Muslim bigotry shows up on its platform that can manifest into violence against Muslim communities. YouTube must also finally take serious action to fix its algorithm that continues to promote disinformation to users who are already engaging with white supremacist and right wing content. Considering YouTube has profited from the spread of white supremacy on its platform for years, we also want to work with YouTube to develop a plan to repair the harm it has done to communities.
During your 2020 end of year report, you wrote: “Our policies are designed to protect our YouTube community against abuse and bad actors and also to make sure we are able to keep advertisers coming back to YouTube to support our creator ecosystem. But we recognize that at the scale we operate, it’s hard for creators to keep up with changing Community Guidelines. And we also know that we make mistakes.”
If YouTube is becoming too big to manage, then you need to decide now to put people over profit. You can respond to Ramah Kudaimi, Deputy Campaign Director at the Action Center on Race & the Economy, at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss these issues further and share YouTube’s plans to respond to our demands.
Action Center on Race & the Economy
Council on American-Islamic Relations- MN
Islamophobia Studies Center
Jetpac Resource Center
Jews Against Anti-Muslim Racism (JAAMR) Justice For Muslims Collective
National Hispanic Media Coalition
Public Accountability Initiative / LittleSis Resource Generation
South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) StandWithKashmir
The Revolutionary Love Project
US Campaign for Palestinian Rights