In the wake of the recent, uncomfortable revelations of pedophilic content and predators on YouTube by Matt Watson, aka MattsWhatItIs, YouTube has announced stringent new policies aimed at creating a safer environment for children, but critics believe the policies are too vague and overreaching.
Jessica Ballinger is a YouTube content creator whose channel focuses on the daily lives and activities of Ballinger, her husband, and their four children. The videos on their channel feature a wide range of subject matter, such as the family’s vacation to Florida or her daughters spending time with young pop-star Jojo Siwa, but all the videos are made innocently with good intentions. On February 21st, Ballinger found that some of the videos uploaded to her channel had been marked ‘Not Suitable for Most Advertisers’ by YouTube:
MY 5 YEAR OLD SON: does gymnastics and is a happy, sweet, confident boy.
youtube: NOT ADVERTISER FRIENDLY
— Jessica Ballinger 💜 (@BallingerMom) February 21, 2019
The disheartened tweet from Ballinger prompted a response from the official YouTube Twitter account, who offered clarification:
(1/2) Hi there–for reference, over the past few days, we’ve taken a number of actions to better protect the YouTube community from content that endangers minors. Here is a tweet from @PhillyD for more context: https://t.co/pywO8uBfpL
— TeamYouTube (@TeamYouTube) February 22, 2019
YouTube refers Ballinger to a tweet made a day prior by independent news reporter Philip DeFranco, who had previously covered Watson’s video and the effect the video and subsequent actions by YouTube had taken on the YouTube community. In the tweet, DeFranco draws attention to a comment issued by YouTube as they enacted their initial steps to combat predatory behavior:
TLDR: Disabled comments on tens of millions of videos. Terminated over 400 channels. Reported illegal comments to law enforcement. pic.twitter.com/zFHFfkX9FD
— Philip DeFranco (@PhillyD) February 21, 2019
However, in a second tweet to Ballinger, YouTube stated that even if the video’s content is appropriate, their latest policy measures would police the comments section for “inappropriate comments”, which if found, would result in a video’s demonetization:
(2/2) With regard to the actions that we’ve taken, even if your video is suitable for advertisers, inappropriate comments could result in your video receiving limited or no ads (yellow icon). Let us know if you have any questions.
— TeamYouTube (@TeamYouTube) February 22, 2019
This declaration by YouTube was met with harsh criticism and outrage from many creators on the platform, who felt it was not only unfair to punish creators for words and actions completely out of their control, but that the new policing system could be easily abused:
So…comments on my videos might get disabled because shitty people leave thousands of rape/mutilation/stalking/death threats and it sometimes takes a while for me to moderate them all? Why would all comments on videos get disabled rather than the commentors account?
— Naomi Wu 机械妖姬 (@RealSexyCyborg) February 21, 2019
This helps literally nobody and it basically rewards trolls or is this confirming that demonitized videos dont get views? Anyway it seems like horrible move on your part and it hurts the already broken trust we have as creators.
— BijuuMilk (@BijuuMike) February 22, 2019
I know you guys are just the social media team, but I really urge one of you to contact one of the higher-ups ASAP and tell them that this system won’t work. You’re literally giving these idiot commenters ammunition, while potentially destroying creators’ livelihoods.
— Vale (@valeforXD) February 22, 2019
So if someone wanted a video removed that they personally did not make and have no involvement in, all they have to do is post offensive trolling comments on it and all punishment will be laid on the video creator.
Yes. Totally makes sense and not ripe for abuse. #sarcasm
— 💙Lizardbeth💙 (@LizardbethArt) February 22, 2019
Some users have concluded that the only way to avoid channel demonetization is to disable comments entirely, which could not only negatively affect a creator’s engagement, but also stifle discussion and counter-arguments on divisive topics. Ultimately, these new and subjective policies have users worried about the survival of their respective channels and confused about what the specific terms of the new policies are. As DeFranco stated in a follow-up tweet:
If this is our new reality we’re going to need the ability to restrict comments from accounts under 1-4 weeks old. Sounds like this is prime for weaponization. Also it would probably be best to have an official blog post instead of my tweet as a reference for this change.
— Philip DeFranco (@PhillyD) February 22, 2019
What do you make of YouTube’s new policies and how they are enforcing it?