YouTube is no stranger to controversy. We previously discussed YouTube’s demonetization policy and how it was negatively affecting content creators on the platform. While the spirit of that article still rings true—that YouTube has the right to demonetize or remove videos that go against their terms of service—it has now gotten a lot more complicated, leaving many users upset.
So, What’s Going On Exactly?
To recap, back in 2016 YouTube changed their monetization policy to “improve [transparency and] the notification and appeal process to ensure better communication [with creators].” Content creators then found that while they were now being notified if a video was demonetized (they weren’t told in the past), many of their videos, even those with the most innocent of content like discussing Japanese snack foods and board games, were getting demonetized for apparently no reason at all and without explanation.
Why did YouTube make all of these changes in the first place?
It was in response to videos on the platform depicting beheadings and other acts of violence and most recently, abusive and predatory videos, search results, and comments regarding children.
Advertisers discovered their ads being run on these videos and in response, companies like Adidas and Hewlett-Packard (among many others) pulled their ads from YouTube and told the platform that they wouldn’t return unless the problem was fixed.
Fair enough. No one wants their brand associated with violent and abusive videos.
Then, when YouTube made the changes to catch this type of content, content creators suddenly found many of their videos flagged by YouTube’s auto-flagging algorithm and lost their monetization. Naturally, they were upset since many use the platform as a source of revenue—especially those who stream and upload gaming videos—and saw that revenue drop, leaving them struggling to find ways to make up for that lost income.
So while YouTube did make good on its promise to ensure better communication on which videos were being demonetized, they’re still failing to communicate when it comes to explaining why those videos were flagged. When YouTube is questioned, creators are typically given the following responses:
- It’s the algorithm. It’s still learning.
- If you think the current monetization is incorrect, please appeal and an expert will review the video.
- It’s against our terms of service.
YouTube won’t tell creators what it is about their videos that the bot finds offensive so they can take steps to ensure their videos are advertiser friendly in the future. As a result, YouTube is being accused of not knowing what its own policies are or what the bot is even picking up when it auto-flags a video thanks to the these generic responses.
It doesn’t help that creators are finding that their videos are being flagged while others with similar content are approved, giving weight to the claim that YouTube’s bot flagging is very inconsistent. Adding to the frustration is users discovering that their videos are being demonetized while still being processed.
Seriously @YouTube & @TeamYouTube? My video hasn’t even finished processing yet and you’re dinging it as not advertiser friendly… Why? It’s a follow up video using the exact same tags as the previous one. VERY Frustrating! #Demonetization #adpocalypse #frustrated #create pic.twitter.com/PPmKcN8Yk4
— David Burgess (@davidnburgess) November 24, 2017
Who Gets Demonetized & Who Doesn’t?
Which leads us to the talk of the town:
Not everyone is getting demonetized for similar content.
Casey Neistat, who has butted heads with YouTube in the past, posted a video to YouTube about a charity to help the victims of the Las Vegas attack. YouTube demonetized the video and when Neistat responded with this tweet:
literally a video about charity.. where i state all Adsense is going to that charity.. youtube says NOT SUITABLE FOR ADVERTISERS pic.twitter.com/PBvHFNNuGy
— Casey Neistat (@CaseyNeistat) October 5, 2017
Team Youtube’s response was that “…no matter the intent, our policy is to not run ads on videos about tragedies.”
We ❤️ what you’re doing to help, but no matter the intent, our policy is to not run ads on videos about tragedies.
— Team YouTube (@TeamYouTube) October 5, 2017
Twitter users were quick to point out that yes, YouTube does indeed run ads on these types of videos, with Philip DeFranco posting this Tweet comparing Neistat’s charity video with one of Jimmy Kimmel discussing the Las Vegas tragedy clearly showing an ad for GMC:
Your response is bullshit. It’s not true. People are tired this. Be better. pic.twitter.com/XWh6eMVQWG
— Philip DeFranco (@PhillyD) October 6, 2017
Remember, according to YouTube, discussing tragedies is against their policy. So why would a video discussing a charity be demonetized while one talking about the attack itself remain “advertiser friendly?” It’s unclear, but there has been talk floating around about “priority YouTube creators.”
Rumor Has It: Priority YouTube Creators
Apparently, the reason channels like Jimmy Kimmel are able to run ads on videos that are “against the terms of service” is that they are a “priority YouTube creator”, which supposedly means that they are set up to bypass the automated ad flagging system. How does one become a priority creator? It’s unclear and as a Google search brings up nothing and YouTube’s help also brings up nothing beyond a blog published in March 2017 about strengthening YouTube for advertisers and creators, we have to claim this as merely a rumor.
Naturally upon hearing this, people using the platform for revenue are upset and crying foul. YouTube hasn’t responded to the outcry or publicly confirmed the presence of priority YouTube creators, but the idea does make sense. Why?
Even though discussing “controversial content” like the tragedy at Las Vegas is against their terms of service, big names like ABC or yes, Jimmy Kimmel, more often than not will have ads run on those videos despite the following guidelines:
As you can see from that screenshot, “even if presented for news or documentary purposes” videos with content like the above are not typically eligible for ads. (For reference, here’s the AdSense Program Policies.)
Despite all of this speculation, I would like to take a moment to point out that YouTube does have a YouTube Partner Program, which allows approved channels to earn money on videos right away after choosing which videos to monetize.
Based off of the description, this sounds a lot like what people are thinking of when they say “priority YouTube creator”. In order to be a partner, your channel must receive 10,000 public channel views, which is no problem for large personalities but a feat for smaller channels.
We have reached out to Team YouTube for comment and will update accordingly upon response.
YouTube Is Still A Good Platform For Sharing Content
So with YouTube’s various responses to creators who are having their content demonetized, what is a creator to do?
As we’ve stated before, you shouldn’t let this drive you away from the platform entirely. YouTube is still a great platform to get your message out there and show off your business and content. At this time, it appears that we just have to wade through the confusion and hope YouTube sorts everything out.
If you have a video that is in line with their terms of service and find that it’s demonetized, don’t panic and apply for a review. Just don’t expect it to be immediate. According to YouTube they prioritize “appealed videos with more than 1,000 views in the past 7 days.” While this is frustrating, especially if your channel doesn’t get that amount of views in a week, it’s important to be patient.