The complete and utter shitshow that is YouTube’s bungled response to addressing anti-LGBTQ harassment on its platform today brings us a response from Google CEO Sundar Pichai following a meeting with LGBTQ groups at the company.
The Verge obtained an internal email from Pichai, which referenced both the recent comments by YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki at Code as well as the Tuesday meeting, which reportedly covered topics such as policy decision-making and the company’s initial inaction around videos that included racist and homophobic slurs by pundit Steven Crowder.
In the letter, Pichai stated that the meeting with Google LGBTQ groups made clear that “the LGBTQ+ community has felt a lot of pain and frustration over recent events.” He highlighted Wojcicki’s arguably thin public apology to the community at Code, adding that he “share[s] that feeling,” and apologized for those events having occurred during Pride.
“Our Gaygler and Trans communities have always been a core part of Google culture,” he continued, per the Verge. “You are a source of pride for us as Googlers, and also a source of hope for people globally who don’t feel comfortable being out in their own workplaces and communities. It’s important to me that we continue to work hard to ensure Google is a place where everyone feels included.”
In his email, Pichai wrote that “Susan and the team are already taking a hard look at the harassment policies and will do this in consultation with many groups,” adding that the company is “thinking through” ways to interact with its LGBTQ community when similar issues arise.
Here’s the thing about that, though: The public apology by Wojcicki was bookended by her defense of the decision not to remove Crowder’s videos from YouTube. Wojcicki said she agreed allowing the videos to remain on her platform despite hurtful and hateful assaults on a journalist “was the right decision” because the company needed to maintain “consistency,” a message that undermines the idea that YouTube is truly sorry and interested in enforcing protections for the LGBTQ community in any meaningful way.
Setting aside for a moment the fact that these issues arose almost exclusively because YouTube and by extension Google failed to remove homophobic videos from the platform, the defense Wojcicki offered for the content is not exactly rock solid.
“If we were not to enforce [our policies] consistently, what would happen is it would be literally millions of other people saying, ‘What about this video, what about this video, what about this video.’ Why aren’t all of these videos coming down?” she said. The scenario she paints sounds quite similar to the situation that YouTube already faces: being asked why a particular video that appears to violate its policies hasn’t been pulled down.
All of this, of course, looks very bad for Google, particularly at a time meant to empower the very community being affected by its spinelessness. And this isn’t lost on the company’s employees either.
Speaking with Gizmodo last week, one Googler said it is “very hypocritical for YouTube to be using the Pride branding, Google telling us that it wants to be inclusive and supportive of LBGTQ+ employees and issues, and Susan [Wojcicki, YouTube’s CEO] telling employees that she’s prioritizing growing YouTube responsibly and preventing abuse and then continue to do things like this.”