Born in Egypt and living in Britain, Khaled Hassan found a job last year with Crisp, a “digital risk intelligence” company employed by YouTube. His role was to flag materials in his native Arabic that foment hatred or violence so that the video-hosting website could remove them. He pursued this task scrupulously, which soon got him into trouble, as David Rose reports:
“I flagged some videos with the [people responsible for identifying hate speech that] literally said, ‘God curse the Jews’ and other brazenly anti-Semitic stuff,” Mr. Hassan said. YouTube’s publicly stated policy is that all “hate speech” that promotes “violence or hatred against individuals or groups” based on race or religion “is not allowed” and will be “removed.”
But Mr. Hassan was told that this did not apply to the videos he wanted to get YouTube to take down. His Crisp colleague wrote: “Unfortunately this stuff is not as clear cut as you think—particularly with hate speech.” This struck Mr. Hassan as ironic: “I was flagging a lot of content from radical, right-wing Jewish organizations. And for this, I received a lot of praise.”
Crisp placed Mr. Hassan on what his boss called an “informal action plan” to scrutinize his work—because, he claims, it felt he was trying to flag too many videos that YouTube did not consider to have violated its policy. On January 12, he attended a further meeting with two of his Crisp colleagues. He says it grew heated. According to Mr. Hassan, one of his colleagues said: “We keep submitting non-violative content [to YouTube]. . . . You, Khaled, you have issues with Palestinian stuff.” . . . He was told to ask a Palestinian from another part of the company to vet any recommendation he made about videos on the conflict with Israel.
The objections to Hassan’s judgments, it is worth noting, came not only from Crisp but from YouTube itself. Eventually Hassan was demoted, and thereafter quit.