Over the last four days, nearly 100 current and former gymnasts have testified against their former team doctor, Lawrence Nassar, detailing years of abuse he inflicted on them. Nassar, who pleaded guilty to multiple sexual assault charges, had already been sentenced to 60 years in prison. But up until Friday evening, his YouTube channel was still operating freely.
Following a call from The Hollywood Reporter during the afternoon of Jan. 19, YouTube removed Nassar’s Gymnastics Doctor channel, which depicted videos of young women performing strength and training exercises.
A spokeswoman for YouTube sent THR a statement that reads, “Given Nassar’s conviction, sentencing hearings and the fact that his videos show him in physical contact with young women in his capacity as a USA Gymnastics doctor, we’ve decided to remove his channel.”
A YouTube search for the Gymnastics Doctor channel now yields no results. A person who finds their way to the page will be met with a red banner that reads, “This account has been terminated for violating YouTube’s Community Guidelines.” All the videos have been removed.
Before its removal, the channel had around 2,000 subscribers but had not posted a new video in a year. There were no advertisements running on the channel.
YouTube has increasingly come under fire for its inability to monitor inappropriate, violent or exploitative content on its platform. In a pair of blog posts late last year, CEO Susan Wojcicki acknowledged that the Google-owned platform had work to do to protect its community. “I’ve seen how some bad actors are exploiting our openness to mislead, manipulate, harass or even harm,” she wrote, before pledging to grow the company’s trust and safety teams to over 10,000 people in 2018.
YouTube’s community guidelines state that the platform does not allow content that features nudity or sexually explicit content, nor content that is deemed hateful, harmful, dangerous or violent. YouTube’s technology may not have flagged Nassar’s channel because it didn’t overtly violate those policies, though users can flag content that they think is inappropriate. This is where human moderation can become especially important for platforms like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. Ultimately, a decision was made to remove his channel due to the discourse around his actions and his confession and to protect the privacy of the women who appeared in the videos.
Nassar spent two decades as the official doctor for USA Gymnastics. He pleaded guilty to seven counts of criminal sexual conduct in November. In December he was sentenced to 60 years in federal prison after he pleaded guilty to child pornography charges. Nearly 100 women, including Olympic gymnasts Jordyn Wieber and Aly Raisman, gave victim impact statements this week in a Lansing, Mich., courtroom to help a judge determine Nassar’s sentence related to the criminal sexual conduct charges.