Most students on this campus have been using YouTube for years. In fact I’m sure there are quite a few of us that remember Ryan Higa’s first videos and when Gary Brolsma made his famous Numa Numa video. We sort of grew up watching our favorite vloggers, musicians and artists and we’ve faced YouTube’s many changes together. Somewhere along the line, those pesky ads started to show up. Sometimes it’s Sofia Vergara pushing Head ‘N Shoulders and others it’s a song about whose prepaid phone is better. No matter what, they’re annoying and we viewers can’t wait for that little skip button to appear. Recently, these little commercials, or rather the absence of them on certain videos have been making news.
On August 31, YouTube started notifying creators that their videos were being demonetized for not being advertiser-friendly. This had apparently already been happening without any kind of notification to the creators and videos were suddenly stripped of their ads and revenue. These demonetized videos featured content that did not fit YouTube’s newly-created guidelines:
“Content that is considered "not advertiser-friendly" includes, but is not limited to:
Sexually suggestive content, including partial nudity and sexual humor
Violence, including display of serious injury and events related to violent extremism
Inappropriate language, including harassment, profanity and vulgar language
Promotion of drugs and regulated substances, including selling, use and abuse of such items
Controversial or sensitive subjects and events, including subjects related to war, political conflicts, natural disasters and tragedies, even if graphic imagery is not shown”
Although YouTube has included a sentence about how videos that have not been demonetized yet include content considered inappropriate have a context that is “usually newsworthy or comedic and the creator’s intent is to inform or entertain (not offend or shock).” Essentially, comedians and news channels are safe, but what about artists? I spent the better part of a day looking through YouTube videos that might go against these guidelines and see if they still had advertising. Some may be relieved to know that Miley Cyrus’ Wrecking Ball video still has advertising; in fact so do most videos from channels that carry “VEVO” after the artist’s name. So clearly none of these videos were intended to “offend or shock.”
Philip DeFranco made a post about how some of his videos had been demonetized and mentions that there is a sort of appeals process available to creators so their “offending” works can be re-monetized. DeFranco goes on to share that one of his videos was not re-monetized but there was no official feedback as to why this specific video was not re-monetized.
Suddenly artists and YouTubers that make videos about controversial topics are finding themselves without advertising revenue. Many have stated that YouTube is heading down a dark path towards censorship and this is the first step. Though the big YouTubers will more than likely find the majority of their appeals accepted, it is the smaller ones with fewer followers that will be far more easily silenced.