There was a big fuss on the internet yesterday, as creators across YouTube suddenly noticed that many of their videos were being blocked from monetization by YouTube. It turns out, YouTube had updated its policy on what kinds of videos can be monetized and was quietly demonetizing videos for almost a year now. Apparently now, YouTube only wants videos that are “advertiser friendly” to be monetized. This raised two big questions: Why is YouTube so routinely terrible at communicating these things to its creators? and What is “ad-friendly” and what happens to those who don’t meet the standard?
YouTube has a (very vague) article detailing what may be considered “not advertiser friendly.” The general idea is they’re targeting videos that are shocking, excessively controversial, or vulgar. Some people think they are trying to cut down on the massive amount of trolling, drama, and conflict we’ve being seeing on YouTube–but if that’s the case, there has been a massive amount of collateral damage. Everything from educational videos to news channels have been hit by the demonetization hammer.
What concerns me the most is that by refusing to give certain content an opportunity to be monetized, YouTube is essentially discouraging people from making that kind of content. This is why I believe this is a form of censorship. They are attempting to control what kind of content gets put on their platform through demonetization. Since YouTube happens to be one of the most important platforms for social discourse as well as entertainment, I find this to be a very concerning situation, regardless of whether or not YouTube has the “right” to do this (which they clearly do, as a business).
YouTube has given me and lots of other creators a way to express ourselves and make money doing it, and I can never thank them enough for this. And I will continue to make videos on YouTube as long as that is a thing I’m able and willing to do, even if I have to do it for free. That’s not the issue. The issue here is I don’t want to see YouTube become a place where only watered-down, innocuous content is the only thing you ever see on the front page. There’s a place for that, but there should be a place for other things as well.