Vox: Privately Incorporated Activism
Activist Carlos Maza, who is currently employed at Vox as a Video Producer, made allegations of harassment against Steven Crowder. Crowder is a conservative Canadian-American commentator, actor, and comedian who runs the show Louder with Crowder (LwC) which is on YouTube.
Carlos Maza posted clips From Steven Crowder’s show, presenting times Crowder called Maza an anchor baby, a lispy queer, and a Mexican, among other names. Judging only by the different shirts Crowder is wearing, it appears these clips were taken from at least six different LwC episodes. Mr. Maza also made claims of being harassed by Mr. Crowder’s fans.
Some evidence for the harassments against Mr. Maza came in the form of an image of texts calling for Mr. Maza to debate Crowder. Mr. Maza also made claims of additional harassment from “Crowder fanboys,” but did not show additional evidence.
Mr. Maza then blamed YouTube for the alleged harassment, and called for the company to enforce their policies. It is however unclear which policy Mr. Crowder broke, as name-calling and third-party actions are not considered policy violations. Additionally, Mr. Maza criticized the “socialism is for figs,” t-shirt Mr. Crowder was selling on his website.
Mr. Maza was backed by Vox Media Inc. for this move, with The Verge (which is owned by Vox Media Inc.), running a story in support of Mr. Maza the day allegations against Mr. Crowder’s show were made.
YouTube initially stood by Mr. Crowder. No action beside a statement was taken. Their justification for their lack of action cited their stance as a platform and their stated policies. The next day, YouTube reversed course and demonetized (removed ads from showing) Mr. Crowder’s YouTube channel and added a new layer of policy. YouTube stated they would reinstate monetization if the previously mentioned T-shirt was no longer linked to YouTube. Confusingly, YouTube stated soon after that the LwC channel would need to resolve “all of the issues,” with the channel. No concreate explicating was given as to what that would entail. Mr. Maza was unhappy with this development, assumingly desiring for the LwC show to be taken off of YouTube in its entirety.
Since then, Media organizations including Verity, USA Today, CNN, Now This, Intelligencer, and Vox itself covered the story which took a stance favorable to Mr. Maza. Mr. Crowder on Twitter warned that this was just the start of the #VoxAdpocalypse, and has since taken down the controversial shirt from his store. There has been no indication YouTube has remonetized his Channel.
Aiding in Mr. Crowder’s argument, YouTube has demonetized and removed many channels since it changed its policies. Examples of demonetization can be found here, here, here, and here. It is unclear if demonetization and channel deletion is still occurring.
Conservatives have been speaking out against the demonetization, with even Texas Senator Ted Cruz’s Twitter making a statement on the issue. There has been some calls for attacking Vox’s advertisers, but nothing substantial has yet materialized.
As of yesterday June 7, Vox has published an open letter penned by Vox’s Editor-in-Chief and Executive Producer. The letter double’s down on the stance Carlos Maza took, and shows the company as a whole share his stance.
Vox has taken a step towards for-profit activism that will stain the company for years.
Mr. Maza was an activist with the title of LGBT Program Director employed by Media Matters, a non-profit activist organization targeting right wing media. Vox, assuming reasonable investigation of new hires, knew Mr. Maza was an activist with no journalist background and hired him anyways.
A journalist reports and puts together stories, an activist is actively involved in making a story for a cause. Mr. Maza made a story for the cause of removing Mr. Crowder from the platform and Vox Media (via the Verge) published the story immediately. Vox is engaging in activism. Now with an editorial lambasting YouTube, it seems clear they are doubling down on their crusading.
This move is pushing Vox away from factual reporting, and lowers trust readers will have for the company.
YouTube meanwhile has proven to be spineless in the face of minor criticism. Their policies are not concrete, and change with the wind. By first upholding, then changing their policies they also may have opened themselves to litigation. Mr. Crowder has been on YouTube since 2009 without major issue like this. Mr. Crowder could reasonably rely on this income. By hurting him monetarily without warning, it may be possible for him to sue YouTube for damages.