Add Ads Or Delete: Youtube’s new policing…I mean policies

Content creators and viewers are both up in arms as much as they’re in a panic, and for good reason.  The new “policies” on youtube have been inflicted on people, and risk ruining the platform.  This is a far worse screwup than “google plus”.  Makers of kids content are particularly worried:

YouTube’s new kids’ content system has creators scrambling

On Tuesday afternoon, YouTube formally announced its plan to have creators label any videos of theirs that may appeal to children. Starting in January 2020, if creators mark a video as directed at kids, data collection will be blocked for all viewers, resulting in lower ad revenue, and those videos will lose some of the platform’s most popular features, including comments and end screens. It’s a major change in how YouTube works, and has left some creators clueless as to whether they’re subject to the new rules.

The following notice appeared from several friends today, announcing a youtube walkout: don’t watch, comment or post and videos for the next four days (December 10th to 13th). I plan to adhere to it.

ATTENTION EVERYONE: there is a youtube walkout from the 10th to the 13th. Please don’t upload or watch any content on youtube within that timeframe. This is in protest of a new rule which gives them the ability to delete anyone’s channel if deemed “not advertiser friendly”. This will disproportionately affect women, people of color, the LGBTQ community, and political youtubers. If enough people participate in the walkout we can have make change

Not following this protocol is the same as crossing a picket line – don’t be a scab.

A post on the Waypoint blog explains it thus:

Starting tonight, many Youtubers will be staging a walkout in protest of Youtube’s new terms, which threaten any channel with deletion if Youtube determines them to be no longer “commercially viable”; as well as their handling of their recent agreement with the FTC over Youtube’s COPPA violation. These new policies are especially worrisome for LGBTQ+ and visible minorities creators who have all seen unexplained demonetization from Youtube in the past. Creators are asking viewers to not upload, view, or share Youtube videos from Dec 10-13. Please see the links below [on the blog] for more info:

What most people are worried about is the new rules on advertising revenue – not by the users, but by youtube.  If they’re not making enough money on your videos, they’re threatening to kill your account.

YouTube says it can delete your account if you’re not ‘commercially viable’

YouTube’s new terms of service has some users and content creators very worried that the company could delete their account.

In the section titled “Account Suspension & Termination” with the subheader “Terminations by YouTube for Service Changes,” the site’s new terms, which are set to take effect on Dec. 10, adds the following:

“YouTube may terminate your access, or your Google account’s access to all or part of the Service if YouTube believes, in its sole discretion, that provision of the Service to you is no longer commercially viable.”

In its most basic terms: if YouTube isn’t making money off you, the company can delete your account. The platform’s current terms of service do not include this language.

There are also new rules for their “algorithm” (read: black box) which will reportedly make it harder for new creators to establish themselves, or they must do it quicker.  My gut tells me this “policy” was so intended to be so egregious that when they backpedal with another awful policy (but less awful than this one) people will accept it.

I honestly don’t believe this is about ad revenue. Youtube gets paid per view, whether a video is seen once or a million times.  The popularity of content creators is irrelevant.

I suspect this is about silencing content, removing channels and creators that displease governments, not advertisers.  It will be censorship by proxy.  If “advertisers are unhappy” why don’t ads disappear on less popular channels?  Why are only creators and content demonetized when it is about topics banned in oppressive regimes?  I will be very surprised if it’s not a repeat of what happened at tumblr, fascistbook and reddit: rightwing hate speech will be unaffected, and minorities of all sorts will be the ones targeted. Youtube’s past silencing of LGBTQIA videos will look like a minor blip compared to this.

In April last year, Reason wrote this about censorship by proxy:

When YouTube, Facebook or Twitter cracks down on some form of expression—conspiracy theories, radical rants, terrorist propaganda—some of the targets inevitably complain that their freedom of speech is under attack. (This feeling of victimhood may be what sent Nasim Aghdam to YouTube headquarters, gun in hand.) There is a strong retort to this: These are private platforms with a right to decide what they publish. It is no more a violation of the First Amendment for YouTube to muzzle a channel it finds offensive than it is for this newspaper to refuse to run a column calling for Minnesota to invade Wisconsin.

But what if a private platform suppresses speech because it’s afraid the government might otherwise step in?

Just as one effective end-run around the Fourth Amendment is to ask private companies for data they slurped up on their own, the First Amendment can be sidestepped when officials pressure the private sector into self-censorship.

“Policies” on cross-border websites always end up being a watered down compromise (read: capitulation) to dictatorships that want to silence ideas. And when dictatorships do it, so-called “democracies” like to join in and say “they did it first!”

What would I do if I had the skills?  I would take a three step approach:

1) Video creators store their content on servers, whether their own website or paid storage.

2) Create a DMOZ style catalogue where users can submit links to their own content, with keywords.  Volunteer users would review and ensure content was what it claimed to be, or flag it as necessary.

3) Release a free app for all platforms that lets users search for and view videos.

Like Usenet, there would be no central control that can dictate to creators, and creators could place their own ads and generate revenue.