Many YouTubers took to Twitter today to bemoan the video giant’s advertiser-friendly content guidelines under the hashtag #YouTubeIsOverParty, with many users proclaiming the death of YouTube. Hyperbole aside, some widely followed YouTubers have noticed flags on videos with explicit content or tags. The site is not removing the videos, but the users will no longer receive ad revenue. YouTube will only monetize videos that it deems appropriate:
Though the guidelines have been in place for some time, it appears YouTube only recently began enforcing them. YouTuber Philip DeFranco, who has over 4.5 million subscribers on on his channel, was the first to notice, when twelve of his videos were deemed no longer eligible for monetization. In a video uploaded yesterday titled “YouTube Is Shutting Down My Channel And I’m Not Sure What To Do,” DeFranco accused the site of censorship: “Taking away the ability to monetize a video where you’re saying things that they don’t deem okay, that’s been described as censorship with a different name, because if you do this on the regular and you have no advertising, that’s not sustainable.”
DeFranco originally gave YouTube the benefit of the doubt, wondering if bots were flagging his content by mistake (DeFranco’s channel is mostly made up of political and cultural commentary). Halfway through his video, however, he is informed by his producer that a YouTube representative confirmed the flagging of his videos was intentional. “It looks like they’re trying to push some of us off the site,” he said.
“It’s important to note that this isn’t really a first amendment issue,” Jeff Hermes, Deputy Director of The Media Law Resource Center told IndieWire. “YouTube is a private entity and has the right to run advertising or not on its content as it will.” Hermes said there is a sensitivity around social media sites and other third party websites monetizing what is seen as sensitive material. For example, the site Backpage.com, which has an adult personals section, has been accused of facilitating sex-trafficking, and has taken heat for profiting from those advertisements.
“There’s a broader question about the company’s relationship with its users in terms of the decisions it makes,” Hermes said.
For an entirely user-generated site, YouTube’s relationship with its users should be extremely important. Perhaps they are betting users need the platform more than the platform needs its users. Fans and creators alike took to Twitter to express outrage:
why won’t they just make a children’s mode for youtube instead of censoring content everyone else wants to see #YoutubeIsOverParty
— mafalda (@raindcwn) September 1, 2016
#YoutubeIsOverParty This thing would take away a lot of the creators creativity and freedom, a big part of what makes yt great for nothing!
— DanaLovatoHoranHemmo (@Danathefangirl) September 1, 2016
First Facebook, then Twitter, now YouTube. Censorship and control of information has reached Soviet levels. #youtubeisoverparty
— Northern Belle (@FountofJustice) September 1, 2016
Apparently the new definition of “censorship” is “not permitting you to make money on our website with this content.” #YouTubeIsOverParty
— Tasha Robinson (@TashaRobinson) September 1, 2016
It is too soon to tell how these newly enforced guidelines will affect YouTube creators in the long run. The site has always had the ability to demonetize a video, the only difference now is that YouTube is informing users when they have done so. Users can also appeal the decision to demonetize a video. What is most concerning is that there appears to be no rhyme or reason to which content gets demonetized.
One resounding opinion from Twitter is clear: With the amount of “inappropriate content” on the site, as defined by the guidelines, YouTube could be left with no monetized content at all.