Increasingly extreme anti-trans content has recently led YouTube to take action against the channels of several Daily Wire personalities, forcing hosts to choose between the reach of their YouTube audiences and their commitment to spreading anti-LGBTQ bigotry.
After the platform demonetized Daily Wire host Matt Walsh’s channel for breaching community guidelines in April, YouTube enforced weeklong suspensions of the shows of Walsh’s colleagues Michael Knowles and Candace Owens in mid-June. Recently, Knowles has been cutting his YouTube videos short and urging viewers to subscribe to the Daily Wire or shift to other platforms to access the rest of his hate-filled content.
YouTube prohibits hate speech against individuals and groups on the basis of a number of attributes, including sex, gender, gender identity and expression, and sexual orientation. The platform’s terms of service state that users may not post content “if the purpose of that content” is to “encourage violence” or “incite hatred against individuals or groups based on any of the attributes” previously noted. The platform also specifies that it treats “implied calls for violence as real threats.”
The full version of Knowles’ show routinely includes dangerous anti-trans misinformation and hate speech that seems to clearly violate YouTube’s rules. In recent weeks, he has:
- Alleged without evidence that trans people are more likely than others to perpetrate mass shootings, saying, “It's always the ones you most expect.”
- Claimed that LGBTQ people are sexually predatory, falsely asserting that they are “groomers” who “have an interest in children because their ideology demands it” and that the “LGBTQ movement, and especially the t– – – – –,” are actively targeting children.
- Targeted trans celebrities Abigail Thorn and Rikkie Valerie Kollé on the supposed grounds that trans people do not exist.
- Argued against the consensus of major medical associations by stating that doctors who provide gender-affirming care are “mangling the genitals of little kids” and should face a “lengthy prison sentence” or “death.”
- Praised recently adopted anti-trans measures in Russia that prevent trans people from accessing medical care, updating their identification, or adopting children and that legally annulled their marriages, saying he was glad that there were “some politicians in the world” who had listened to a recent speech in which he urged that “transgenderism must be eradicated from public life entirely.”
- Smeared former University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas with deadnaming and misgendering.
But now, instead of including content that would violate YouTube community guidelines, Knowles seemingly employs self-censorship strategies recently popularized by other right-wing media figures to draw viewers away from the platform. As the anti-LGBTQ segment approaches, Knowles teases it — sometimes even bleeping out his use of anti-trans slurs or terms — and directs viewers to the full episode on DailyWire+.
In the YouTube version of the segment in which he praised Russia’s anti-trans measures, for example, Knowles introduces the topic at hand by referencing his widely viewed “CPAC speech” but stops short of making the explicitly anti-trans commentary included in the full length version of his show, instead cutting to an ad for DailyWire+ subscriptions.
The pointedness of this strategy contrasts with the less confrontational approach adopted by his colleague Ben Shapiro.
On June 26, Shapiro’s show included a segment on a challenge to Florida’s drag ban in which he claimed that “the Founding Fathers would've tarred and feathered you, without question," for performing drag in front of children. The YouTube edition of the The Ben Shapiro Show does not include the host’s anti-drag speech, but unlike Knowles, Shapiro simply cut from the preceding commercial directly into the segment following the anti-drag portion of the show, more subtly avoiding the inclusion of explicit anti-LGBTQ content on YouTube.
Knowles and Shapiro’s strategy makes it clear that they are aware of what content violates YouTube policies.
But some of the platforms Knowles urges his viewers to visit instead also have similar guidelines. On X, anti-trans rhetoric undoubtedly faces little accountability following the platform’s change of policy under Elon Musk and Linda Yaccarino. But Apple, Spotify, and Google — all three of which carry either the DailyWire+ app in their stores or stream The Michael Knowles Show directly — purportedly oppose hate speech under definitions similar to those of YouTube:
- Apple Podcasts: “Does not allow… defamatory, discriminatory, or mean-spirited content, including references or commentary about religion, race, sexual orientation, gender, national or ethnic origin, or other targeted groups, particularly if the content is likely to humiliate, intimidate, harass, or harm individuals or groups or includes specific threats of violence against certain groups or individuals.”
- Spotify: “Don’t promote violence, incite hatred, harass or engage in any other behavior that may place people at risk of serious physical harm or death.”
- Apple Store: “Apps should not include content that is … Defamatory, discriminatory, or mean-spirited content, including references or commentary about religion, race, sexual orientation, gender, national/ethnic origin, or other targeted groups, particularly if the app is likely to humiliate, intimidate, or harm a targeted individual or group.”
- Google: “We don't allow apps that promote violence, or incite hatred against individuals or groups.”
Rhetoric that paints LGBTQ people as pedophiles and mass shooters, urges their incarceration or death, and promotes their eradication from public life constitutes an obvious attempt to “incite hatred” against a community and seems to be in clear violation of YouTube’s stated terms of service — something that Knowles himself acknowledges by excluding this content from his channel. This admission should serve as an example of Knowles’ ability to understand that his anti-LGBTQ comments are likely a breach of policy not just on YouTube, but also on the other platforms he utilizes, whether that be Google, Spotify, or Apple.