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YouTube expands hate speech and harassment policies to include harmful conspiracy theories like QAnon

YouTube has expanded their hate and harassment policies to include conspiracy theory content used to justify real-world violence. 

That expands the policy that already prohibited content that threatens violence or denies the existence of major violent events. YouTube specifically cites QAnon as the type of content that is no longer allowed.

Facebook made similar prohibitions against QAnon Pages, Groups and Instagram accounts on October 6.

This is just an incremental step in policy changes YouTube has been making over the past couple of years. For example, in June 2019, the hate speech policy was expanded to include supremacist content and Sandy Hook-type denialism.

YouTube's Hate Speech Policy

YouTube's basic hate speech policy has not been recently changed. You are not allowed to promote violence or hatred against individuals or groups based on these attributes:

  • Age
  • Caste
  • Disability
  • Ethnicity
  • Gender Identity and Expression
  • Nationality
  • Race
  • Immigration Status
  • Religion
  • Sex/Gender
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Victims of a major violent event and their kin
  • Veteran Status

YouTube's Harassment Policy

YouTube does not allow content that targets an individual with "prolonged or malicious insults" based on protected group status (as listed above) or physical traits. And, of course, content that threatens individuals is not allowed.

YouTube's harassment policy was updated in December 2019 to more strongly prohibit threats and personal attacks. 

    Specific examples of content YouTube policy prohibits

    YouTube's examples of prohibited content include QAnon and Pizzagate, and any other conspiracy theories that has resulted in actual violence.

    Other specific examples of what is not allowed: 

    Targeting an individual and making claims they are involved in human trafficking in the context of a harmful conspiracy theory where the conspiracy is linked to direct threats or violent acts. 
    Deny that a well-documented, violent event took place.
    Content containing hateful supremacist propaganda including the recruitment of new members or requests for financial support for their ideology. 
    Dehumanizing individuals or groups by calling them subhuman, comparing them to animals, insects, pests, disease, or any other non-human entity.
    Praise or glorify violence against individuals or groups based on protected attributes (as listed above). 
    Threatening someone’s physical safety. This includes implied threats like “when I see you next, things will end badly for you,” explicit threats like “when I see you on Saturday I’m going to punch you in the face,” or implying violence by saying things such as “You better watch out” while brandishing a weapon.
    Note that most of this policy is not new and has been in effect for some time. If this is new to you, be sure to review theharassment and hate speech policy pages for full details and more examples

    Also note that the policy does not automatically ban reporting about such conspiracies, documentaries, scripted performances, or debates related to high-profile officials. YouTube considers the context of the content.

    Penalties and Appeals

    If your content violates the hate, harassment or other Community Guidelines policies, YouTube will send you an email. 

    The first time it happens you will get a warning. Repeated violations will result in a strike

    First strike : One week penalty. You will not be able to upload videos, live stream, create stories or Community posts, and not create, edit or add contributors to playlists.

    Second strike within 90 days: Two week penalty as above.

    Third strike within 90 days: Third strike and you're out. Your channel will be terminated and permanently removed from YouTube.

    YouTube may also disable monetization, especially if the content encourages abusive behavior or may put people in the way of physical harm.

    Note that in cases of sever abuse your channel may be terminated without warning

    If you believe YouTube got it wrong, you can appeal. 

    Appeal a Community Guidelines strike

    You can appeal a Community Guidelines strike in YouTube Studio.

    1. Sign in to YouTube and open Studio (studio.youtube.com)

    2. Click Settings on the left menu

    3. Click Channel then Feature Eligibility

    Or go directly to www.youtube.com/features?sts=1

    If you have the option to appeal you will see it there. 

    Appeal a Channel Termination

    If your channel was terminated for a Community Guidelines violation, you can appeal by submitting this form: support.google.com/youtube/contact/accountdisabled

    A few tips for submitting your appeal: 

    You need to enter your Channel ID, not your channel's custom URL. If you no longer have access to your YouTube account, you may find that link in a notification email from YouTube or the Google Search cache

    Fill out the form as completely as possible. You have the chance to make the case for your content, but writing "I don't know why it was disabled" or "YouTube is mean" isn't likely to help.

    Only submit one appeal. Multiple appeals may actually delay YouTube's response. 

    Learn more: 

    YouTube Hate Speech policy

    YouTube Harassment and Cyberbullying policy

    More recent YouTube policy updates.

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