A few weeks back YouTube announced it was tightening up its anti-harassment policy after years of criticism that the platform allowed what amounted to hate speech directed at marginalized groups.

The change in policy is three-pronged: One, the site will no longer allow videos to be posted that are malicious in nature and meant to insult someone’s race, religion, or sexual orientation. And while the site always prohibited direct threats, videos that imply threats will also be removed. Secondly, the site will be taking down comments that also reflect implied threats. Lastly, YouTube will be quicker to ban someone from the site for breaking the anti-harassment rules.

Will these changes help? Time will tell. In the meantime, over half of Americans say they see content or comments on YouTube that they think should be removed. Over 20% say they see it “very often,” with another 30% saying they see objectionable content “somewhat often.”

Age plays a factor here, with Gen Z and Millennials slightly over-indexing, and Boomers and older coming in at 22% less.

Gender, however, is where the first big differences emerge. Women say they “very often” see content or comments that should be removed from YouTube at a 37% higher rate than men, and they see objectionable content “somewhat often” at a 22% higher clip. 

Tribalism Plays a Big Role

Like so much else in America 2020, where someone sits on the political fence informs how they feel about the issues of the day. YouTube is no exception.

Even just among Americans who say they “lean” one way or another, the differences remain stark, with left-leaning people 48% more likely than right-leaning people to say there is removable-worthy content on the platform.

Time Matters

The more time someone spends on social media each day, the more likely they are to say they have seen malicious content on YouTube. In fact, people who say they spend 4+ hours on social media apps and sites are more likely than those who spend 2 hours or less on social media to see YouTube content they think should be removed.

In addition, Americans who say their friends and other social media contacts influence the products they buy say they see repugnant material on YouTube at a 28.5% higher rate than people who said their purchases are not influenced by their social media connections.

Early Results

So do Americans think YouTube has beat back the hate? Not quite. Only 7% of Americans “strongly agree” YouTube is doing a good job policing harassment in comments, with another 25% “somewhat” agreeing.

More than a third of both conservatives and moderates said they thought YouTube was doing fairly well putting policies into effect. It was those who identified as liberal who were more likely to say the platform had room to improve.

Gender showed a marked difference, with women 14% less likely than men to think YouTube is doing a good job getting objectionable comments off the site. 

It is clear that Americans have a problem with some of what they see on YouTube’s platform. Despite the recent negative attention, CivicScience data has not shown much fluctuation in usage, suggesting that even though people don’t always like what they see or read, it’s not enough to push them off the platform just yet.