It all started on Wednesday August 31, 2016. The world was in shock. People lashed out on twitter and other forms of social media saying that YouTube is now censoring YouTubers, violating and taking away freedom of speech. The hashtag #YouTubeIsOverParty was trending worldwide by the following day as everyone proclaimed this was the end of YouTube.
So what happened? On Wednesday August 31, 2016, YouTubers, started receiving emails about their videos being demonetized, meaning they would not earn any money from their videos. Famous YouTuber Philip DeFranco (with 4 million subscribers!) made a video about this topic that received almost over 6 million views and started the hashtag #YouTubeIsOverParty. By September 1st, both the video and the hashtag were trending worldwide.
Philip DeFranco’s YouTube video: “YouTube Is Shutting Down My Channel and I’m Not Sure What To Do”
DeFranco explained in his video that YouTube released a “new” advertiser friendly policy which explained what content would cause a video to get demonetized. DeFranco wasn’t the only YouTuber affected by this. He states in his videos that other content creators on YouTube received emails about some of their videos being demonetized. This also started a wave of YouTube videos with titles such as “I’m Quitting YouTube” or “YouTube is Dead”.
What content is deemed “advertiser un-friendly” is also an issue. Many YouTubers and their audience argued this is a form of censorship, as swearing and sexual humor can get videos demonetized. One of the most controversial topics however, deemed inappropriate for advertising is: “controversial or sensitive subjects and events, including subjects related to war, political conflicts, natural disasters and tragedies, even if graphic imagery is not shown.”
One million subscribers YouTuber Einshine argues in his video “YouTube is Making me Quit, Time to get a New Job?” that a previous video he made regarding his experience as a victim of the 3/11 Japan Earthquake in which he stated that all money he gained from ads in that video would be donated to charity to help Japan after the tragedy can be demonetized following the “new” guidelines.
Another argument made by YouTubers that this policy is going against freedom of speech, is that some YouTubers comment on or include news in their videos and therefore show violent or sensitive subjects even though it is not their own content and could still be penalized for it.
YouTube has responded by stating that these guidelines are not new. In fact, YouTube has been demonetizing content deemed “not advertiser-friendly” since 2013. So what changed? According to YouTube, they’ve updated their notifications system. This means that before, YouTubers would get their videos demonetized but would not be aware of it, now they will receive an email about it.
YouTube also has an appeal system where YouTubers can make a request to get their videos re-monetized. While this works for some, others have had their appeal denied, keeping their videos demonetized. DeFranco argues in his video “YouTube Responded, But It Gets Even More Confusing…” that this hurts smaller YouTubers that depend on the initial views to make their living. By having a video demonetized as soon as it’s posted, the YouTuber is losing the revenue opportunity while the initial views come pouring in as it takes time for the appeal to take affect.
I do believe YouTube is using a form of censorship, but I do not think YouTube is taking away freedom of speech. Many YouTubers have successfully been appealed their. Even if YouTubers aren’t getting money from their videos, their content is still accessible for everyone to see.
YouTube is a private company and they are well within their rights to implement these guidelines. After all, the content shown on their website represents and reflects them as well as the advertisers.
I believe that there is a communication problem between YouTube and its content creators. I think YouTube is finally taking a good step in updating their notification program but this could have been done much sooner. A solution to YouTubers losing money could be for YouTube to communicate quicker and more directly with YouTubers, letting them know before their content is demonetized allowing them to make an appeal while still making revenue off their views.
What do you think? Is YouTube violating freedom of speech or creating a form of censorship? Considering this policy isn’t new, what has changed now that content creators on YouTube are aware of this policy? Considering ad-blockers, do you think this issue is even relevant?