Youtube Demonetizes Big Creators

Tahreem Farooqi - 1A Planning
Posted on: September 24, 2016

The main source of income for many YouTubers, big and small, are ads placed on their videos. Recently, YouTube has decided to eliminate ad revenue for videos based on whether their content is  “Advertiser Friendly ”, meaning that many YouTubers are not getting paid.

For YouTube to demonetize a video, the content in it has to violate their “Advertiser Friendly” policies.  The general rules for advertiser friendly content would pertain to not being offensive or using inappropriate language, not displaying any overtly sexual content, not displaying violence, not promoting substance usage (YouTube Advertiser Friendly Terms and Conditions), and not discussing any controversial topics. Although most of these conditions are violated in many YouTubers’ content, especially the inappropriate language condition, the last is the one that is upsetting many. The main complainants are informative channels. According to YouTube’s “Advertiser Friendly” conditions, a video cannot be monetized if it contains “Controversial or sensitive subjects and events, including subjects related to war, political conflicts, natural disasters and tragedies, even if graphic imagery is not shown”. This means that any discussion of topical events that include any controversy would be considered not “Advertiser Friendly” and so those videos would be demonetized.

But, amid the controversy, YouTube claims that their policy has never changed, that these terms of use were always in place, and that they have always been demonetizing videos that don’t follow the “Advertiser Friendly” guidelines. The difference now is that they have begun notifying their users when their video becomes demonetized. This has gotten many YouTubers angry, as they have learned that they unknowingly lost revenue on certain videos that they believed to be monetized and did not have a chance to battle those claims, causing them to lose the income on that video. This is especially detrimental to the smaller YouTubers whose only revenue stream is from advertising, while the bigger YouTubers who have other means of income, such as direct sponsors, are better able to weather the effects.

Popular news YouTuber, Philip Defranco, is especially perturbed by this rule. Upon discovering the demonetization of his one of  his videos, Defranco tweeted “Producer just got off the phone with YouTube and it wasn’t a mistake. Feels a little bit like getting stabbed in the back after 10 years”. Since Defranco’s channel is centred around the news, his videos involve topics such as pop culture, business, national and international government, war, and politics. Unfortunately, many of these topics tend to be “controversial” as well as “sensitive”, meaning that in order to maintain his primary revenue source, Defanco will need resort to self censoring or ignoring potential content. This could lead to him misinforming or under informing his viewers, and failing to generate critical discussion on important issues.

Another issue with the policy is that YouTube is not consistent in their implementation of it, demonetizing some YouTubers’ content, but not others. According to Huffington Post, large YouTube Channel RoosterTeeth uses foul and offensive language in their videos but, unlike Defranco, RoosterTeeth’s videos still remain monetized. This suggests that YouTube will have to implement a more consistent enforcement of this policy and equal evaluation of all its partners.

Ultimately, despite the repercussions, even Philip Defranco admits that “YouTube is, of course, well in their rights here.” YouTube has always had the right to control the incoming content on their website. They have a right to choose what is and is not “Advertiser Friendly” and a responsibility to their users to advertise on content that is safe for viewing. We can expect that the system will improve as time passes, and hopefully these difficulties can be eliminated with improved transparency.