Are you boycotting YouTube this week?

YouTube has threatened to drop any channels that are not “commercially viable” in the future, which is grossly capitalist and of concern to everyone, as capitalism destroys another medium. I guess I should worry; I have a YouTube channel, and last I looked it earns me about $15 a month, which doesn’t sound particularly viable to me (I’m not in it for the loot, fortunately). Meanwhile, the channels that earn big bucks and make their owners thousands and millions of dollars are total garbage. Do we really want to see the PewDiePieification of YouTube?

Anyway, there’s a call to walkout, you can read about it at Great American Satan and the Bolingbrook Babbler and stderr and Impossible Me and Intransitive. I’m pessimistic. I don’t think it can generate enough press or enough pressure to make any difference.

But we need to take a stand somewhere. This is an announcement of a policy to stomp down small content producers, killing niches which we already know will be selected against if they have the faintest whiff of sexuality, while the racist channels will be tolerated. They want to propagate the least desirable aspects of American culture and resist anything that might change it. I’m in. I haven’t even glanced at YouTube since the day before yesterday.

I want you to know if this experiment actually worked, three days of silence would cost me a whole $1.50. So I’m participating in this effort at great personal sacrifice.


  1. Andries Spies says

    I saw that coming the moment they canned G+. Corporate america is nothing more than a social parasite, sucking the life out every human connected to the internet.

  2. says

    I didn’t know about it soon enough and watched videos on the first day of the walkout. Then I found out about it and told myself I would stop… but forgot and showed a funny duck video to a friend.

    After that I really stopped So i only watched one video (twice) after becoming aware, but I generally watch anywhere between 2 and 8 short videos a day, so “walking out” for the last 2 days will at least cut my total watching by 50%.

    If everyone did that, it certainly would be felt by youtube, though I have to agree with PZ that’s it’s unlikely that participation will be sufficiently widespread for any effect to be noticed.

  3. says

    I mentioned it as well. I don’t buy the “commercially viable” claim when google gets paid regardless of howmany views. I see two motivations behind the TOSsers’ horrible ‘plan’:

    1) Censorship by proxy. They are silencing content that governments don’t like – political, human rights, anti-fascist, LGBTQIA, etc. There are (for example) racing fatality compilations, video of people actually dying on film, and advertisers don’t oppose being associated with it. Channels like China Uncensored are denied ad revenue, but youtube STILL puts ads over their videos and profits.

    2) Offer an unacceptable option first so they can backtrack and replace it with a less awful one. This is “google plus” times a hundred, creating an untenable situation that silences the entire site. After the viewcott, google will “update” (read: post its already planned followup) which users will accept on 12/16 but wouldn’t on 12/10.

  4. alkisvonidas says

    YouTube has threatened to drop any channels that are not “commercially viable” in the future, which is grossly capitalist

    Um, yeah, din’t ya hear? You defeated the Evil Empire. The whole world* is capitalist now. Enjoy your freedom!

    I have a YouTube channel, and last I looked it earns me about $15 a month, which doesn’t sound particularly viable to me

    Irrelevant; you’re not the producer, you’re the product. In Capitalist America, Youtube sells YOU! And if they can’t sell you, you’re no use to them.

    Do we really want to see the PewDiePieification of YouTube?

    Who’s “we”? We the people? We the Youtube users? We the fartarounds who discovered capitalism reigns supreme 30 years too late?

    What leverage do you think “we” have?

    I’m pessimistic.


    I don’t think it can generate enough press or enough pressure to make any difference.

    Right for the wrong reasons. The reason it won’t work is that YouTube is not accountable to the public. It’s not a public, or state, service, it’s a private platform, and it can dictate its terms. The fact that everyone is using it, the fact that we’re addicted to it, the fact that we’ve tacitly accepted these terms because we didn’t see the trap, is OUR fault. Same goes for pretty much all social media: we’ve been duped.

    They want to propagate the least desirable aspects of American culture and resist anything that might change it.

    No, they want to sell what’s popular. The fact that what’s popular is also garbage says something about the public, not YouTube or its algorithm. Can we fix that? It needs fixing!

    *Except for China, which is capitalist with communists in charge, North Korea, which is nuts, and Cuba, which (correct me if I’m wrong) you don’t much care for.

  5. says

    Unfortunately went I checked out the #YouTubeFail hastag, I just saw seemingly endless comments from the far right complaining about YouTube censorship, so I figured that it just a Nazi thing and watched my usual channels.

  6. says

    I don’t really get it. What do Youtube gain by this? It’s not like they have to make their own content anyway and with more videos, it’s more likely that any given viewer will stick around to watch another one.

    Limiting the number and variety of videos will just limit youtube’s ability to show ads to people, so why? Why do they give a shit whether their content creators make money?

  7. says

    @#7, LykeX
    Google’s management (like that of most tech companies) is quietly full of right-wingers — technocrats rather than the more traditional retrograde hate-mongers, but nevertheless perfectly willing to go along with, say, Neo-Nazis, but not with Antifa.

    They already have their own secret algorithms for calculating recommendations which just by coincidence have been demonstrated to eventually recommend right-wing nutjob videos no matter what you’ve been watching. (Literally: cartoons for toddlers? Nazi propaganda. How-to makeup videos? Nazi propaganda. Far-left pro-Antifa propaganda? Nazi propaganda.) This will permit them to game the data and declare that those right-wing channels they’ve been pushing are “commercially viable” while the ones which disagree are not, and purge the disagreement.

    I always laugh when people claim they’re using Android because Apple is evil. Seriously? Google makes Apple look angelic, and has for over a decade. This is just the latest item in the list.

  8. Nomad says

    I think you are drastically misunderstanding the meaning of that “commercially viable” line. This whole brouhaha seems like a fundamental misunderstanding. And frankly, liberals should know better, because they’re a part of this now. There’s a backstory to this that you’re all missing out on, and without understanding it you can’t place this in the proper context.

    I’ve been sick for nearly a week and don’t have the energy to look up references to this. I’m not sure there’s a point in my doing this in any case, I’m getting the feeling that nobody wants to hear what I have to say. But some years ago there was a campaign to strip far right wing (fascist, racist, etc) videos on youtube of their ad revenue or else get them kicked off entirely by making the advertisers aware of the kind of videos that their product was being promoted on. It worked, advertisers pulled out and Youtube freaked out.

    I applauded this effort at the time, I took great joy in seeing these people lose ad revenue and watching them whine about oppression. But in hindsight it was a stupid move that just hurt everyone. The problem is that Google is a company built around having a bunch of computers make money for a small group of people. Moderating video content is a manpower heavy endeavor and not something they were ever going to do. Their response was, again, in hindsight, predictable. They created a mysterious “algorithm” to do the work for them. It went out and started demonitizing videos based on largely unknown factors, channel owners were only notified that a video was deemed to have content that was not advertiser friendly, they were never told what the problem was. In some cases the problem is fairly predictable. Playthroughs of the computer game Hearts of Iron 4, a global military and political sim built largely around WWII, which include mention of Hitler often get demonitized. It seemed that videos of gameplay of horror themed video games were getting demonitized too. Which is pretty ironic considering one of the reasons I finally started blocking Youtube ads was that I got sick of being made to watch horror movie commercials. It’s a testament to American values that we can be made to watch commercials for horror movies, with scenes suggesting imminent, brutal, bloody death, but anything even vaguely sexual, not to mention suggesting imminent sexual contact, is always banned.

    On the other hand it was sometimes completely nonsensical. One content creator I follow had a video repeatedly demonitized for no reason he could figure out. In frustration he made an alternate version that did nothing but remove the fade transition between edited together scenes. That video was approved. I’m sure that was not the intent of the algorithm, but this is the case with these black box algorithms that operate behind the scenes. You never know. I have no idea if they even really cared, they were making a show of taking action.

    At the same time “adpocalypse” happened. Even content creators who were not being demonitized found their ad revenue plummeting. I tend to suspect Google used the whole demonitization thing as an excuse to slash what they were paying their content creators to fluff up their bottom line.

    So this brings us to today and this whole “commercially viable” thing. We liberals own part of this. We tried to strongarm them into taking action without thinking through what that action was likely to be. We got them to react all right, but the end result was to screw everyone over. But it doesn’t mean what some of you are implying. It doesn’t mean that every content creator has to be as big as Pewdiepie or whatever. It means that their content has to be deemed as not being objectionable to advertisers. This is pretty much what the goal of the advertiser pullout campaign was, actually. Rather than simply being demonitized, those content creators are being booted off the system entirely. It’s just that years have passed and now, in the midst of the Trump presidency, we’re considering what might happen if someone were to pressure advertisers against us, instead of the other way around.

    I’m not really trying to defend Youtube here, the demonitization algorithm is one of the most hated things in Youtube. I don’t make videos myself, but I’ve seen so many of the people that I do follow grumbling about it. And the only way to request a human review of videos that have been deemed unsuitable is bullshit, you have to be popular enough that the video gets at least a certain number of views in a short time after it’s put up. Otherwise you’re too small for them to bother even reviewing it.

    But let’s not kid ourselves. This commercially viable requirement is what we wanted to make happen. We just didn’t think it through.

  9. Porivil Sorrens says

    See, that just shows that appealing to bourgeois institutions like advertising firms and corporate owners is a dumb way to get what we want done. Rather than braying for them to work against their interests and lead them to pretend to give a shit about social matters, we should take that power from them and not let one of the biggest content delivery platforms in human history be beholden to the whim of like five uber-rich leeches.

  10. Zeppelin says

    @alkisvonidas, 4:

    No, they want to sell what’s popular. The fact that what’s popular is also garbage says something about the public, not YouTube or its algorithm.

    YouTube, like any institution of mass media, has the ability to make things popular, and preferences for what they want to be popular. They don’t simply give people what they already want.

  11. DanDare says

    I would like to see government run video distribution services. What would such a service do? Allow each channel provider to handle advertising direct and or to coop with other providers for ads. It would have recommend algorithms based on cohorts without commercial interference. Other stuff?

  12. blf says

    No, I am not boycotting, for the simple reason I’ve been unable to locate a non-video explanation of what is going on. (There are non-video posts about it, such as this one and others here at TfB, but no analysis to the best of my current knowledge.) As mentioned in the OP, there is a worrisome new not commercially viable wording, which is apparently a revised wording to the previous T&C. But beyond that, there seems to be no non-video analysis — or possibly, even announcement — of what the feck is going on. I’m totally not impressed with the apparent level of non-analysis. (And no, I have not used Generalissimo Google™ exclusively to search for details!)

  13. mountainbob says

    I believe it’s correct to ID You Tube as part of the whole “social media” thing? I don’t participate in the other social offerings on the internet, but I do check out You Tube when I’ve forgotten how to install a new cabin air filter on our car, or a new windshield wiper blade. So, I guess my boycott is not complete.

  14. A Sloth named Sparkles says

    But while we’re at it, can you recommend any alternatives to Youtube?
    Vimeo seems promising, while I doubt Dailymotion is a good platform.