The internet has been up in arms for almost a week over the news that YouTube have made some severe changes to their Terms Of Service. If you missed the #YouTubeIsOverParty hype, here’s the story in a nutshell: The video giant have reportedly begun notifying creators when they disable advertising on any videos they deem “not advertiser-friendly”. This has been considered a very vague term that seems to include everything; from promotion of drugs, to offensive language, to even the discussion of “sensitive subjects”.
It’s now been five days since Philip DeFranco first noticed his videos were being demonetised one by one, and sparked a wave of fury across the entire community. And after that first uprising of creator backlash, reactions videos of all angles and the day-long trend of #YouTubeIsOverParty, we have to ask the awkward question:
Has anything changed?
Has the site become a totalitarian hellscape, where creators are incapable of expressing themselves without sacrificing their income? Or have YouTube backed down under the pressure of their most influential stars’ protests, and reassessed what is obviously a massive oversight?
Well, no. Because they’ve been doing this since 2012.
Over at the Internet Creators Guild, YouTube mogul Hank Green and his team have been doing some excellent homework on what YouTube’s “new” terms of service actually entail. In a Medium article from the ICG, they reveal (amongst many other things) that demonetisation has actually been going on for a few years; but the act of actually notifying creators when ads are removed has only come into play recently, as previously an algorithm was responsible for removing ads automatically.
“[I]t was very difficult to know that one of your videos had been de-monetized,” the article explains. “If you did happen to notice while very granularly looking at your analytics for a single video, you could ask YouTube what happened, but there wasn’t anything you could do about it.”
But what the updated terms of service offer is not only a notification that your video has been demonetised; but also the opportunity to request a manual review of the “offending” video, which will be re-monetised if a real human decides it isn’t in violation of the “ad-friendly” policy.
So what does this mean for #YouTubeIsOverParty?
Well basically, it’s not actually the end of the world if your favourite YouTuber likes to swear. If for some reason they get picked up by the demonetisation algorithm, they’ll have the opportunity to appeal; and chances are their income will be restored.
Of course, there are still some likely consequences to face if someone finds a lot of their videos are losing ad revenue. And there is still the issue that YouTube’s terms for what constitute “not advertiser-friendly” are still incredibly vague. But in today’s climate of creators using YouTube as a full time job, the reality is that actual ad revenue is usually a very small fraction of their overall income.
If there is a major silver lining to any sort of stricter policy on monetisable content, it’s that hopefully more aspiring creators will be encouraged to make videos for the sake of making things that theyn love, instead of going down the path of jumping on more insidious or scandalous trends for the sake of clicks and money. And isn’t a YouTube where people are striving to make better videos an ideal goal?