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. YouTube, for their part, says the controversial standards have been in place for a while.
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:
“By 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,” DeFranco said in his YouTube video, which as of this writing has 1.5 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 perceived changes 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 demonetized content recently. Many YouTubers are reporting bizarre instances of demonetized content. Most people, from beauty bloggers to comedy channels and everything inbetween, seem at the very least wary about recent chatter:
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’ve 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 demonetized 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 demonetized videos. It could just be a matter of timing and coincidence though, especially if demonetized alerts are simply more visible now, hence the ‘increase’ in reports.
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 YouTube’s guidelines also state that “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 rumors 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 gray 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.
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: