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YouTube Demonetization Crisis and YouTube Community

The creation of entertaining and informative content has been primitive to YouTube and has played a large role in the subscriber and view count of the content creators on the platform. Youtube is, and always has been, a platform that allows creators to voice their opinions in numerous methods. Content creators such as Philip Defranco, the vlogbrothers, and Kingsley all discuss issues regarding news and popular culture. However, according to YouTube’s Terms and Conditions, issues that are considered sensitive or graphic are a violation to the terms and conditions that YouTube has put forth. It is quite difficult to discuss news and current events without mentioning subjects that are “sensitive” to some. In his video discussing the monetization issue, Philip Defranco states, “They have this in what’s not considered appropriate: ‘Controversial or sensitive subjects, even if graphic imagery is not shown.’ How are you supposed to cover news? Pretty much any time we talk about a natural disaster, it’s not thumb-entitled. We try to get people to donate money to help.” Defranco also mentions that the discussion of news and current events helps spread awareness to the subject. When examining the issue of a hurricane that demolished Haiti, the creator spreads awareness about the issue without the use of graphic images. The use of images can be seen as ‘sensitive’, however, a simple discussion regarding the topic cannot and should not be seen as a ‘sensitive’ issue. Therefore, channels and creators that cover news should be allowed some flexibility in the terms and conditions that YouTube has put forth. Channels that only discuss news may be seen as carrying out violations of the terms and conditions. The issue of demonetizing news videos, or stripping them of advertisements, can be incriminated on the algorithm that executes the act. Algorithms are simply too logical to choose the videos that violate the terms and conditions when topics such as news and education exist on the platform. The idea of sensitivity is subjective and an algorithm cannot decide what is sensitive and what is not due to its lack of understanding of sensitivity. Besides the fact that an algorithm demonetizes the videos, a double-standard has been discovered. News channels such as that of Philip Defranco have received demonetized videos for simply covering news and current events and displaying the unfiltered truth of the world. However, channels such as RoosterTeeth that utilize extremely vulgar language have not seen a demonetized video yet. With the use of foul-language being clearly stated as a violation in the YouTube Terms and Conditions, these channels have not been penalized. The double standard seen is that news coverage is demonetized for discussing “sensitive’ issues—with or without graphic imagery—but an extremely vulgar channel has not been. “This could be the beginning of something horrible,” Defranco mentions.

An attack on the content is an attack on the creator because many YouTubers make a living off of creating content for the platform. When their videos get demonetized for a simple violation, they are being directly affected. Prior to this issue coming into the light, a plethora of videos were being falsely demonetized, leaving creators with a declined ad revenue. Because some creators heavily rely on the advertisements to get money, the demonetization of their videos largely impacts their life. Moreover, prior to the issue being risen, many creators simply did not have the knowledge that their videos were being demonetized. In order to combat this issue, YouTube has allowed creators to appeal their videos for remonetization. The YouTube team affirmed, “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.” The situation is that the terms and conditions have always been there, however, it is only recently that they have been taken more seriously. Because videos were never under this amount of scrutiny, it is now that creators are unhappy with this situation. Demonetization has happened previously, however, the creators were not notified and this has made it seem as if YouTube is against them and their content. During that period of time, creators were losing a myriad of monetizable views and did not have the knowledge that they were losing them. YouTube content creator Casey Neistat voices his opinion and declares, “But when they [YouTube] don’t communicate it, and that lack of communication affects creators, and affects them in the most sensitive place which is in the wallet, that’s a very very dangerous game.” Many creators deem this as a threat and an attack to not only their content, but also to them as individuals.

Furthermore, this situation has gone beyond the fact that creators simply are not gaining monetization, it has resulted in a lack of creative content. Individuals decide to post less “sensitive” content and resort to more “trendy” content in fear of their videos being demonetized. This in itself can be exhibited as a form of censorship because it is developing a fear that certain videos will not be monetized leaving creators to create content that is deemed “acceptable.” This fear leaves individuals suppressing their free-speech in order to make a living from the ad revenue.

The issue of suppressing the voice of the content creators leaves the audience less exposed to world issues and world views. Without the knowledge of world issues, nothing can be fixed or acknowledged resulting in YouTube becoming a platform of ignorance. For example, a video of Philip Defranco’s was deprived of monetization due to the discussion of the “sensitive” topic of the Syrian Refugee Crisis. Not exposing citizens to the Syrian Refugee Crisis leaves them ignorant to issues around the world and deprives them of the knowledge they could have attained through a video. Creators will no longer create this content because they cannot attain money from it, leaving the public ignorant to the issues faced around the world.

Aside from the demonetization crisis, YouTube has introduced a new feature that is called “YouTube Community” that resembles a social network on the channels. The feature is going through beta testing with a handful of channels including: Sam Tsui, Vlogbrothers, AsapScience, The Game Theorists, The Key of Awesome, The Kloons, Lilly Singh, Peter Hollens, Threadbanger, and VSauce3. This allows more direct collaborations between the content creators and their audiences. The YouTube Team got sentimental upon the release and stated that “Your bond with your viewers is deep. You've grown up together, laughed together, and done incredible things together, from shifting attitudes about gay rights to volunteering millions of dollars toward important charitable causes. Today, we’re introducing a beta version of a new product to help strengthen the bond between you and your viewers, called YouTube Community.” YouTube community enables the creators to post behind-the-scenes images, GIFs, and live videos in order to engage the audience in between the channel uploads. It is seen as the “deepest product collaboration [Youtube] has ever done with creators.” John Green, creator and one-half of Vlogbrothers, mentions that the community aspect of YouTube is what put the platform in the spotlight and is what makes YouTube unique when compared to other social media platforms. The new Community tab allows the sense of community to be strengthened more than ever before. This could possibly bring YouTube back together after the destruction the demonetization issue has left. There is always a positive in a basket of negatives and maybe YouTube Community can bring the YouTube community back in unity.

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