YouTube has had its ups and downs this year, especially when it coming to brand safety. In a bold move the Google-owned company started to demonetize videos that “are controversial but do not violate [their] policies,” according to a blog post announcing the change at the beginning of August. A move that was introduced as part of a counter-terrorism effort.
The big issue with this move is that YouTube is now deciding what is too controversial for the public, which is fine — the company has the right to decide what’s goes on its site — but, if not executed correctly it can put a serious dent in someones monthly income who may not deserve it.
Here are three times YouTube jumped the gun on demonetizing or flagging content.
Just last week a Redditor by the username of Leoleomeomeotook to the site to express his disbelief that YouTube had just demonitized his video which contained no music and no sound, just a different images of the letter A. “[A]nd the only video tags of the video is ‘letter a’ and ‘leonartist.’ That is it. There is no possible way I could have violated Youtube guidelines (that I know of). I think I’m being blacklisted on Youtube,” he wrote. Now Leoleomeomeo does not have a large following meaning that this issue isn’t a matter of paying rent or buying food, but it’s definitely discouraging for those looking to use the platform as a means of making money and doesn’t shine a good light on the company.
At the beginning of the August, Jordan Peterson, best known for his stance against the forced use of gender-neutral pronouns, was completely banned from using his Google and YouTube account.
“Please tell me what principle I have violated,” said Peterson in his email to Google upon discovering that he was locked out of his account. “I have not violated any terms that I am aware of and have not misused my account.”
The psychology professor has over 350,000 subscribers on his YouTubechannel, which he uses as a platform to post his lectures, interviews, and Q&As.
“We understand you’ve recently been unable to access your Google account, and we appreciate you contacting us,” said Google in a response. “After review, your account is not eligible to be reinstated due to a violation of our Terms of Service.”
Though a reason was never given for the ban, the issue was fixed within a short amount of time despite the uproar from the internet.
On August 23, YouTube had to reinstate thousands of videos documenting violence in Syria that were removed “mistakenly,” reported BBC News. The company said it was due to the error of human reviewers who consider the context of footage based on tags and written description, as well as captions and descriptions within the video. Groups who were monitoring the conflict in Syria said such videos document the war and could be used in future war crime prosecutions.
“We have a situation where a few videos get wrongly flagged and a whole channel is deleted,” Eliot Higgins, founder of citizen journalism website Bellingcat, told BBC News.
After reinstating the videos, YouTube admitted it had made “the wrong call.”
In this case of mistaken identity, the banning of videos might not have hurt anyone’s monthly income, but it nearly hid away important historical information, which can be just as harmful.
Of course, YouTube has succeeded twice as many times as it has failed in its quest for the “right” kind of censorship. Shout out to the lack of beheadings an unsolicited pornography in the recommended section.