In a brazen violation of YouTube’s policy against hate speech, right-wing influencer Tim Pool spuriously claimed in a video released last Friday that “the LGBTQ community is now dominated by pedophiles” and levied the same slander against a Daily Dot journalist. The fact that this video remains up nearly a week later, accumulating more than a quarter of a million views, is emblematic of YouTube’s systemic failure to crack down on even the most egregiously hateful content.
Last week, following mounting pressure, Twitter told the Daily Dot it would ban targeted use of the term “groomer” to spread unfounded accusations of child abuse against LGBTQ people. Use of the word “groomer” as a way to disparage LGBTQ people is a part of a larger strategy by right-wing figures to co-opt language about child abuse to malign gay and trans people — a tactic that has led to harassment and violent threats against the LGBTQ community.
In response to the Twitter news, Pool took to his YouTube channel (which has well over 1 million subscribers) on July 22 to disparage Claire Goforth, the Daily Dot journalist who has covered the issue, calling her a pedophile while also admitting he lacked any evidence to support his claims. Pool also falsely claimed that the LGBTQ community had been “taken over” by pedophiles.
Despite the fact that YouTube’s hate speech policy bans content “promoting violence or hatred against individuals or groups” based on protected characteristics, including gender identity and sexual orientation, the video remained up as of publishing.
Meanwhile, YouTube continues to reap financial benefits from Pool’s presence on the platform. Pool, who previously admitted he believes YouTube is more concerned with retaining advertisers than combatting disinformation, recognizes this incentive and is clearly exploiting it.
YouTube’s refusal to crackdown on Pool’s extremism reveals deeper problem with permitting anti-LGBTQ rhetoric
Baselessly accusing LGBTQ people of being “groomers” and “pedophiles” has been a consistent problem on numerous social media platforms. However, in response to the recent push for platforms to more closely monitor this smear, TikTok, Reddit, and Meta (parent company of Facebook and Instagram) all took the step of clarifying that such rhetoric violates their hate speech policies. According to Goforth’s article from July 20, the only company that did not respond when asked by the Daily Dot about this rhetoric was Google, which owns YouTube.
By allowing its rules against hate speech to remain nebulous, YouTube is refusing to take responsibility for a problem that goes well beyond this latest example from Pool. As previously reported by Media Matters, YouTube is rife with false accusations of LGBTQ people grooming children, with a particular focus on drag performers and those discussing LGBTQ topics in school.
James Lindsay, a far-right author who has been instrumental in perpetuating this false claim, said that his use of the term started in October 2021 with his series titled “Groomer Schools,” which he streams on YouTube. Lindsay belongs to YouTube’s partner program, which allows him to directly financially benefit from his presence and following on the platform.
Pool is not the only content creator with a large YouTube following who has recently maligned the LGBTQ community with false accusations of wide-spread pedophilia — Daily Wire’s Candace Owens, whose channel has more than 750,000 subscribers, falsely claimed in April that “pedophilia is around the corner” during her discussion of Disney’s commitment to LGBTQ inclusion. This plays into the slippery slope conspiracy theory pushed for years by extremists on 4chan, which falsely claims that the fight for LGBTQ rights will lead to more pedophilia.
Owens went on to call a teacher who lamented having to hide her marriage due to Florida's “Don't Say Gay” law a “mentally unstable adult predator who has access to children, our children,” and ended the segment by saying, “We must not give these freaks and predators so much as one inch." Owens' video remained up as of publishing.
YouTube fosters extremism by failing to acknowledge prevalent and escalating anti-LGBTQ rhetoric
By not only failing to enforce its current policy on hate speech, but also refusing to even state that its policy covers prevailing hateful rhetoric, YouTube is signaling to increasingly extreme users that its platform will host their hate.
In previous instances, YouTube has shown that it is perfectly capable of confronting this rhetoric when it decides to do so. After Media Matters revealed last year that YouTube was hosting multiple channels belonging to adherents of QAnon — a conspiracy theory that similarly seeks to wield false accusations of pedophilia for political ends — the platform responded by removing at least 18 of the flagged channels.
Failing to address the problem of falsely accusing LGBTQ people and their allies of child abuse not only increases the risk of violence against LGBTQ people, it also hinders the efforts of those genuinely seeking to protect children from exploitation. By letting the dangerous and inflammatory claims of Pool and others go unchecked, YouTube is directly profiting from the sort of rhetoric that is inciting violent acts in real life — a far cry from the “ongoing commitment to the community” it espoused just last month.