Leafy Banned From YouTube Over Harassment Concerns
Calvin “Leafy” Lee Vail has been permanently banned from YouTube for violating the site’s harassment policy repeatedly. Previously, it had been speculated that Leafy’s channel was suspended for harassing Imane “Pokimane” Anys, but YouTube confirmed to The Verge that the ban was permanent.
This is part of a much larger crackdown on creators on YouTube who have primarily built a following by bullying and harassing other popular creators. YouTube made some big changes to their harassment policy to drop the hammer on such folks recently, and this is the most high profile ban they’ve done with the policy thus far. More are expected to follow, with community speculation pointing to folks like Keemstar, who’s Drama Alert channel has been pointing out flaws in many YouTubers for ages.
The termination of Leafy’s account may not have been directly tied to Pokimane’s controversy that Leafy was at the center of, but rather a violation of YouTube’s harassment policy three times over the last 90 days. That included videos featuring cyberbullying (where Leafy name called and used malicious insults designed to call out that person’s appearance, gender, or orientation) and getting his viewers to attack other YouTubers by using calls for action, whether directly or indirectly.
YouTube’s Harassment Policy Isn’t That New
As it turns out, while the harassment policy may be news to a lot of the community, YouTube implemented it back in 2019. The ban shouldn’t have come as a surprise to people. These new policies show how different YouTube is compared to its early days, where shocking and viral content ruled the site, and there was very little in the way of moderation for creators to defend themselves.
Of course, YouTube doesn’t want the site to remain devoid of the community talking about each other or critiquing each other. They don’t want it to get out of hand as it did with Leafy’s videos.
“The policy has to be written in such a way that creators can comment on each other and criticize each other,” CEO Susan Wojcicki said in a 2019 interview while talking about the new policy. “The question is … where do you draw the line? Where do they cross the line? When it’s no longer just ideas, but they’re criticizing them as a person.”
The community has been split on the decision to ban Leafy from YouTube altogether. While many are celebrating it as Leafy repeatedly used racial slurs and other offensive language in his videos, there are some that wonder if YouTube isn’t perhaps extending their hand a bit too far in the censorship department. Times have changed on YouTube and the Internet altogether, with criticism and “parody” being looked at in a much harsher light than it used to be.
That being said, there was evidence that Leafy was going a bit further than other creators.
“Leafy had his account banned on YouTube. If it was done for the video critique alone, that is a terrible precedent for the future of YouTube,” veteran esports journalist Richard Lewis said on Twitter. “I suspect it has more to do with off platform activity, like engaging with someone who threatened Pokimane’s life.”
Lewis then linked an archive showing Leafy engaging with a fan who said “someone needs to kill Pokimane.” Leafy responded with a suggestion of an HDR Recon scope. This was a serious threat, even if a joke, and one that YouTube was unlikely to take laying down.
Even so, many in the community worry that their channels could be next, as they produce similar (if slightly less inflammatory) content on YouTube.
“Even if you weren’t a fan of his videos, Leafy’s termination is very, very, concerning,” YouTuber John Scarce said. “Leafy being terminated now means any of us could be next.”
Others rightly pointed out that if these creators are so worried about their content drawing strikes from YouTube, perhaps it’s time for them to reexamine the way they are making a living. After all, doing so at other people’s expense isn’t the best way to make a name for themselves. If nothing else, it’s probably bad karma and what goes around, comes around in the end.
What Does This Mean for the Future of YouTube?
Google, and YouTube as a whole, has mostly been handed off with its community until the last few years. However, with these moves now becoming expected, perhaps YouTube is getting tired of explaining the actions of their biggest creators to their advertisers.
Even last year, when PewDiePie went through his big controversy with “racism,” this caused a lot of advertisers to pull out, which was probably a nightmare for YouTube’s bottom line. It’s no surprise that as YouTube continues to grow as a mainstream entertainment platform that they have to police their users a bit more heavily than they used to. Anyone trying to state that they shouldn’t is probably deluding themselves.
The only danger here is if YouTube goes too far and limits the creativity and freedom that their audience enjoyed and was able to innovate with. If they do, it could open the window for a rival video streaming platform to develop, even though YouTube has so much market share that this is unlikely to happen ever, especially given their ubiquity on mobile devices with Android installed, same with iOS.
Ultimately, it’ll be up to the community to let YouTube know their thoughts and opinions on moderation, and up to Google’s community team to listen. If they don’t, finding a happy medium could be impossible.