When you click on a YouTube video, there’s a good chance you’ll see a 15-second advertisement before it for Febreeze, Purina, or whatever.
But maybe you’ve noticed that only some videos have these pre-roll advertisements.
YouTubers have to manually opt-in to monetizing their channels, meaning that ads will roll before their videos and they will get a portion of the ad revenue generated from people like you and I as we sit helplessly waiting for the “Skip Ad” option to appear.
In most cases, the amount of money this generates is pretty inconsequential, but for YouTube’s most popular content creators, the amount of money their channels generate can be a significant portion of their income.
Starting Thursday morning, many YouTubers were finding that they’d received emails notifying them that one or more of their videos violate its “advertiser-friendly content guidelines.” According to YouTube’s terms of service, videos are considered ineligible for monetisation if they are not “advertiser-friendly,” which includes content that has any of the following qualities:
- Sexually suggestive content, including partial nudity and sexual humour
- Violence, including display of serious injury and events related to violent extremism
- Inappropriate language, including harassment, profanity and vulgar language
- Promotion of drugs and regulated substances, including selling, use and abuse of such items
- Controversial or sensitive subjects and events, including subjects related to war, political conflicts, natural disasters and tragedies, even if graphic imagery is not shown
It’s crucial to note that YouTube offers a caveat to these rules, saying if a video contains inappropriate content, it may still be eligible for monetisation if “the context is usually newsworthy or comedic and the creator’s intent is to inform or entertain (not offend or shock).”
These guidelines have existed for a long time, but many YouTubers seem to be finding that more and more of their videos are being flagged for not meeting its guidelines. Or, rather, they’re just talking about it more. As of Thursday afternoon, the hashtag #YouTubeIsOverParty was trending in response to this controversy.
YouTube insists it isn’t flagging more videos than usual. In a statement provided to Business Insider, a YouTube spokesperson said, “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 to our creators.”
The Vlogbrothers probably got the most hilarious demonetization notice. Shows the variety of content affected. pic.twitter.com/lRrGkN5HSY
— Hank Green (@hankgreen) September 1, 2016
One YouTuber, Philip DeFranco — who has over 4.5 million subscribers — called this de-monetisation a “form of censorship” in his most recent video, hyperbolically titled, “YouTube Is Shutting Down My Channel and I’m Not Sure What To Do.”
While YouTube is unequivocally not shutting down his channel, they did recently improve “the notification and appeal process to ensure better communication,” according to the aforementioned statement provided to Business Insider, which is likely what’s causing the increased conversation around the de-monetisation of videos.
Seems like @Youtube will be stripping most of my advertising from now on. Oh well.
I’m not going to censor myself. pic.twitter.com/a9upZh6eTY
— Philip DeFranco (@PhillyD) August 31, 2016
Of course, since YouTube is a private platform, it has the right to regulate its content in any way that it chooses, but perhaps there’s room for improvement in terms of how advertisers target their ads. Rather than step in on behalf of advertisers and forbid all age-restricted content from being monetized (as is currently the case), perhaps YouTube could improve the tools advertisers have at their disposal so that they can control what types of videos in which their ads appear.
In a post on Medium, Freddie Wong — whose YouTube channel has over 7.75 million subscribers — explains why he thinks crying “censorship” is the wrong approach, and calls instead for a more nuanced conversation around advertisement.
“It’s not just semantics — the flippant use of that word immediately degrades the conversation into platitudes when there is real nuanced discourse that should be happening, and that can lead to better informed creators and viewers,” he said.
Until the situation develops further, YouTubers can appeal the decision to de-monetise their video if they feel it has been flagged unjustly. For prominent YouTuber Hank Green, that process seems to have already reversed the decision on one of his videos.
YouTube swiftly reinstated monetisation on the Zataari video when we called them on it. But this whole situation is very very worrying.
— Hank Green (@hankgreen) September 1, 2016
We have reached out to YouTube for further comment.