Yesterday, popular YouTuber Philip DeFranco uploaded a video where he claimed that YouTube was "shutting down" his channel due to guideline violations that included "excessive strong language". Since then, panic and confusion have struck the YouTube world, with some wondering if this is the start of an excessive clamp down that would put channels with millions of subscribers out of business. DeFranco's own woes started when he noticed that a dozen of his videos were flagged by YouTube as not being "advertiser friendly", meaning that that these videos could no longer accrue revenue, as they had before:
Update: At least 12 more of my videos have been hit and I'm nowhere near done. This might be part of the reason. Wow pic.twitter.com/2i6msEMv7M
— Philip DeFranco (@PhillyD) August 31, 2016
"By taking away the ability to monetise a video where you're saying things that they don't deem "OK", that's been described as censorship with a different name," DeFranco said in his YouTube video, which as of this writing has 1.8 million views. "Because if you do this on the regular and you have no advertising, it's not sustainable."
DeFranco did acknowledge that YouTube would be well within its rights to dictate what happens on their own website, though he took umbrage with the fact that YouTube didn't communicate very well with its own content creators.
After DeFranco's Tweets and YouTube videos started circulating, a bevy of other YouTubers have come out to speak against YouTube's advertising policies. The channels that self-identify as vulnerable by these advertising guidelines seem to be news channels covering sensitive real-world topics, though YouTubers with gaming content are also reporting more demonetised content recently. Many YouTubers are reporting bizarre instances of demonetised content. Most people, from beauty bloggers to comedy channels and everything in between, seem at the very least wary about recent chatter:
@PhillyD Looks like this may be their way of getting rid of some of the channels whose content they do not like. time will tell whats what.
— boogie2988 (@Boogie2988) August 31, 2016
UnMonetized YouTube Videos! pic.twitter.com/qgsvXwUFPq
— KEEM ? (@KEEMSTAR) August 31, 2016
We're not allowed to talk about current events!?
Seriously we can't TALK about natural disasters! pic.twitter.com/4tvjGTE2EZ
— CUCKBALL (@GeekRemix) August 31, 2016
So, some of the Dead By Daylight videos got demonetzed. lol
— John Smarticus (@tehsmarty) August 31, 2016
I have no idea how the fuck YT thinks they can make these rules work with a bajillion videos that all break their rules, so GLHF youtube!!
— Apocalypse Queen (@GeekRemixALot) September 1, 2016
Videos can be demonetized for "sexually suggestive humor and inappropriate language" are you kidding me?
— Matt Watson (@matthwatson) September 1, 2016
Genuinely couldn't be a better time for a Youtube alternative now that the biggest channels on the site won't be able to monetize videos
— Cr1TiKaL Charity (@CharityCr1TiKaL) September 1, 2016
Just heard about that apparent "no swearing on YouTube or ads" thing. The hell will they enforce that shit?
— Jim Sterling (@JimSterling) September 1, 2016
YouTube disabled ads on my DEPRESSION video cus advisers dont like it. Sorry depression isn't fucking pretty enough… pic.twitter.com/YXs0YFGVAb
— luke cutforth✨ (@LukeIsNotSexy) August 31, 2016
— Melanie Murphy (@melaniietweets) August 31, 2016
It's gonna be a super bright future. Now I have to worry about the future of everything I do. pic.twitter.com/oebTAR63J6
— Rob Dyke (@TheRobDyke) September 1, 2016
They tryna censor your boy now? Hmm I already got diugh and puh now I just got think of other words to sub for my 57 other bad words lmao ?
— DashieXP (@DashieXP) September 1, 2016
I reached out to YouTube, and a spokesperson clarified that technically, nothing has really changed on YouTube's end:
While our policy of demonetizing videos due to advertiser-friendly concerns hasn't changed, we've recently improved the notification and appeal process to ensure better communication.
According to YouTube, they have tried to make it easier for creators to know when a video is no longer advertiser friendly, and that furthermore, YouTube now provides creators with a way to log an appeal for any demonetised footage. The idea was to make this information accessible more easily, which is why some YouTubers felt that they "suddenly" got a bunch of flagged videos at once. The representative I spoke to stressed that any flagged videos aren't the result of a policy tweak, because YouTube's advertising guidelines have been in effect for a long time now.
While news of YouTube's actual intentions have started to spread, there's still an air of uncertainty for many content creators. YouTube is already a fickle place, where people don't feel like they have full control over how they make money — if they make make money at all. While YouTube claims it isn't enforcing its guidelines more strongly now, the optics aren't very friendly here thanks to a surge of YouTubers who are now reporting demonetised videos. It could just be a matter of timing and coincidence though, especially if demonetised alerts are simply more visible now, hence the "increase" in reports.
This is nothing new to me, btw. I've been without a network and subject to these 'new' rules the whole time. No ads on controversy stuff
— boogie2988 (@Boogie2988) August 31, 2016
A lot of the confusion seems to be a related to the "YouTube's Advertiser-friendly content guidelines" page, which says that swearing, sexually suggestive content, violence, drug use or usage of controversial subjects are not advertiser friendly. By that metric, most videos worth watching violate the guidelines... except that scaremongers seem to leave out the part on that page that says, "If the video does contain inappropriate content, the context is usually newsworthy or comedic and the creator's intent is to inform or entertain (not offend or shock)." Theoretically, that would safeguard most videos. Asked about this directly, a YouTube spokesperson reiterated that YouTubers can now appeal these decisions, so there's not as much cause for concern as some might like you to believe.
More overtly, all this paranoia around policies speaks to YouTube's tenuous relationship with "drama" in 2016. As we reported earlier this year, YouTube is experiencing a schism thanks to popular channels who report on salacious and gossipy news items, and these topics would theoretically be harder to report on if YouTube was indeed getting serious about its guidelines. It doesn't help that rumours have been floating around for a long while that YouTube might be changing its terms of services in ways that would negatively affect large channels that operate in a morally grey area. The conspiracy theory now is that the perceived enthusiastic enforcement of advertisement guidelines is a sly way for YouTube to weed out "undesirable" channels, but there's nothing concrete to line that tinfoil hat just yet.
Advertisers dont want to be associated with people that make others lives miserable for money. Shocking I know.
— John Bain (@Totalbiscuit) August 31, 2016
The commotion that has broken out recently can be traced back to these wider tensions felt by the YouTube community, though it probably didn't help that one of the most well-known channels out there initially exaggerated a little bit about what is going right now. Don't worry. Nobody is getting "shut down", not that this is stopping the internet from having a little fun with the idea:
just received an email
son of a bitch pic.twitter.com/VODvUvAYMr
— Tanner of the North (@TannerLPer) August 31, 2016