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Photo: Pedro Fiúza/NurPhoto via Getty Images.

Google said in a statement Wednesday that it is updating harassment policy for YouTube to curb explicit threats, as well as veiled or implied threats and personal attacks, against viewers and content creators.

Why it matters: Google said it's strengthening its policies in part because it saw a growing trend of creators harassing other creators on the platform. In particular, it saw an uptick in creators starting YouTube channels dedicated to harassment.

What's new:

  1. Google says it's expanding protections around implied or indirect threats. Its policy previously drew bright lines around direct threats, things like doxing, or posts that called for violence. Now it's going a step further by saying it will take action against users who make indirect threats, like talking to someone about brandishing a weapon.
  2. It's expanding its rules on personal attacks to ensure that they apply to everyone, from private individuals to YouTube creators to public officials. Google says it will no longer allow content that maliciously insults someone based on their race, gender expression, or sexual orientation.
  3. It's tightening its policies for the YouTube Partner Program (YPP), which gives creators of YouTube videos greater access to YouTube resources and features. The policies will be tougher on those who engage in repeated harassment or borderline harassment by suspending ongoing offenders from YPP, and eliminating their ability to make money on YouTube. Repeated violators could have their YouTube channels banned altogether.
  4. It's making product changes to its comments feature. YouTube has begun to turn on its comments review feature by default for its largest channels. Google says the change will roll out to most channels by the end of the year, but that creators can opt out.

The big picture: Updates to policies around harassment or bullying are always difficult to negotiate, and sometimes enforce, because they can be subjectively interpreted.

  • Many Big Tech platforms, including Google, have also faced repeated accusations of bias in content moderation, particularly from conservatives.
  • While none of those allegations have been backed by substantial evidence, they force companies like Google to tread carefully when creating policies that could impact creators' freedom of speech.
  • Google said it took the company eight months to update its policies and consulted many experts, like online bullying organizations and free speech proponents, to ensure that the changes didn't just solve for one kind of incident or outcome.

Go deeper

22 mins ago - Health

Government website for free COVID tests launches early

COVID-19 rapid at-home test kits. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

The website where Americans can request free, at-home rapid COVID-19 tests from the government launched Tuesday and is now accepting orders.

Driving the news: The website went live in its beta phase and is operating at a limited capacity a day before its official launch. Every home in the U.S. is eligible for up to four COVID tests, according to the website.

AT&T extends 5G delay over airline panic

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

AT&T said Tuesday it would delay lighting up its 5G signals near a limited number of airports after renewed opposition from the aviation industry over concerns about signal interference.

Why it matters: The CEOs of leading airlines warned of catastrophic disruption to flights if AT&T and Verizon deployed 5G as planned this week.

Driving the news: In a statement, an AT&T spokesperson said the company would launch its 5G service as planned except near a "limited number of towers around certain airport runways as we continue to work with the aviation industry and the (Federal Aviation Administration)."

  • "We are frustrated by the FAA’s inability to do what nearly 40 countries have done, which is to safely deploy 5G technology without disrupting aviation services, and we urge it do so in a timely manner," the spokesperson said.
  • Verizon did not respond to a request for comment.

Catch up quick: The FAA has warned previously that potential interference from 5G signals, especially in bad weather, could cause flight cancellations or force planes to divert to different airports.

  • Verizon and AT&T have previously committed to creating buffer zones around certain airports for six months to reduce interference risks, along with other safety measures.
  • With those commitments, the companies planned to launch 5G service Wednesday, but faced ongoing concerns from the airlines.
Updated 2 hours ago - World

Ukraine crisis: Blinken to visit Kyiv, then meet Russian foreign minister

Photo: Russian Foreign Ministry/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva on Friday, following a trip to Kyiv to reinforce U.S. support for Ukraine in the face of a possible Russian invasion, according to a senior U.S. official.

Why it matters: The meeting with Lavrov suggests a diplomatic resolution to the crisis may still be on the table, despite the collapse of security talks between Russia and the West last week.