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Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

YouTube found itself the center of discussion around hate speech Wednesday, but not in the way it had hoped.

Driving the news: The company had long ago picked the date to announce a range of new policies aimed at limiting the presence and spread of hate speech on its platform. Instead, the announcement came in the midst of another uproar over the platform's enforcement of its policies, this one centering around conservative host Steven Crowder and the many homophobic and racial insults he has made over the years against Vox's Carlos Maza.

The timeline: On Tuesday, YouTube said that, after a days-long investigation, it decided not to take action against Crowder, who has 3.8 million subscribers.

  • While YouTube said his comments were "hurtful," it suggested they were made as part of a broader argument and thus did not violate its rules.
  • On Wednesday morning, YouTube made its policy announcement. The changes addressed less-targeted forms of hate than were at issue in the Crowder controversy, such as attacks on entire groups of people. These policy revisions had been months in the works and were not a reaction to Maza's complaint.
  • Less than 3 hours later — and amid significant outcry and rumblings of a boycott — YouTube announced it was suspending Crowder from the program that allows creators to run ads and share in revenue from the videos, saying "a pattern of egregious actions has harmed the broader community."

Between the lines: Criticism of YouTube was widespread, coming from within Google and YouTube, plus from outside on both the left and right.

  • Those on the left accused Google of doing too little, too slowly, while at the same time portraying itself as a friend of the LGBTQ community by changing its Twitter icon to a rainbow version of its logo for Pride Month.
  • On the right, Crowder and his supporters accused YouTube of caving to pressure since it had earlier said his content didn't violate its policies.

Our thought bubble: Although they are making opposing arguments, both sides are actually pointing at the same problem: YouTube's rules for taking down videos and "demonetizing" creators still appear to be vague and unevenly enforced.

  • This leads many observers to conclude that the decisions have more to do with how loud a fuss is raised and by whom.

What they're saying:

"Not everyone will agree with the calls we make — some will say we haven’t done enough; others will say we’ve gone too far."
"And, sometimes, a decision to leave an offensive video on the site will look like us defending people who have used their platforms and audiences to bully, demean, marginalize or ignore others."
— YouTube's Chris Dale

Go deeper: YouTube coverage of hate speech hearing marred by hate speech

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - Health

California surpasses 50,000 COVID-19 deaths

A man prepares a funeral arrangement in in Los Angeles, California, Feb. 12. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

California's death toll from COVID-19 surpassed 50,000 on Wednesday, per Johns Hopkins data.

The big picture: It's the first state to record more than 50,000 deaths from the coronavirus.

4 hours ago - Technology

Facebook bans Myanmar military

A protester holds a placard with a three-finger salute in front of a military tank parked aside the street in front of the Central Bank building during a demonstration in Yangon, Myanmar. Photo by Aung Kyaw Htet/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Facebook said on Wednesday it would ban the rest of the Myanmar military from its platform.

The big picture: It comes some three weeks after the military overthrew the civilian government in a coup and detained leader Aung San Suu Kyi, causing massive protests to erupt throughout the country. Military leaders have been using internet blackouts to try to maintain power in light of the coup.

It's harder to fill the Cabinet

Data: Chamberlain, 2020, "United States of America Cabinet Appointments Dataset" Chart: Will Chase/Axios

It's harder now for presidents to win Senate confirmation for their Cabinet picks, an Axios data analysis of votes for and against nominees found.

Why it matters: It's not just Neera Tanden. The trend is a product of growing polarization, rougher political discourse and slimming Senate majorities, experts say. It means some of the nation's most vital federal agencies go without a leader and the legislative authority that comes with one.