William Gregory Douglas, a 35-year-old man, was arrested by the FBI last week for threatening to kill multiple YouTube employees and CEO Susan Wojcicki.
Monday, Douglas was arraigned and appeared in court. He was charged with cyberstalking and transmitting threats in interstate commerce.
Douglas has posted a number of death threat tweets in the past couple of weeks
Douglas began tweeting numerous death threats against YouTube and its employees on August 23rd. What caused the threats? His channel was deleted by the site’s administrators. Douglas is an avid believe in many right-wing conspiracy theories, like Pizzagate. YouTube’s reasoning behind removing his channel is unclear, but the company is cracking down more harshly on video spreading misinformation.
Douglas did create a second channel in January, but that channel has been demonetized, not removed like the first.
The FBI has released this statement about the incident:
“The criminal complaint alleges that Douglas posted a series of tweets that included language such as, “I would kill the 100 YouTube employees,” “you want a bigger mass casualty aka shooting let’s see what I can do,” and “return my channel you low life Sholes before someone else comes and shoots more of your employees.” On September 17, 2018, LiamXmaiLRevolutionX posted a message to @SusanWojcicki: “Susan I’m coming for you today #pray.”
Douglas was referring to the shooting at YouTube’s offices in San Bruno, CA. Three YouTube employees were wounded by YouTube Creator Nasim Aghdam who carried a handgun and killed herself before authorities got to her.
What made this conspiracy theorist lash out?
Both Douglas and Aghdam felt that YouTube’s censorship had crossed a line. Aghdam believed YouTube had ruined her life for demonetizing her videos and censoring them. There’s no evidence that YouTube censored any of Aghdam’s content, but it’s possible it did and that’s what drove her to try to commit a mass shooting.
Likewise, Douglas could have felt the same way. We do know that Douglas had been censored by YouTube – having one of his channels completely removed and the other being demonetized.
Many right-wingers and conspiracy theorists believe that YouTube is out to get them, especially after YouTube’s become stricter on its regulation. However a recent study shows YouTube’s algorithm actually promotes more extremist content than non-extremist.
It is true that YouTube has become a lot stricter with its regulations – and that hasn’t come without it’s bumps. For instance, YouTube angered many creators after its algorithm demonetizing videos without giving a clear reason. It likely these stricter regulations enraged both Douglas and Aghdam and drove them to commit their actions.
Douglas’ pre-triall hearing is scheduled for October 6th.