I recently produced a video about issues that are being had across YouTube with regards to what content is allowed and what isn’t. In that video I also talked about how the enforcement of what’s allowed and what isn’t is being applied very unevently.
You can watch that video here:
We emailed back and forth a couple of times and I answered the questions he asked and he put together an article over on their website.
Here’s the article and I highly encourage you to read it:
Andy’s second email posed some additional questions and, as it turns out, I had a lot more to say about the whole thing. Again, I want to apologize to Andy for sending him an 1100 word response to his email.
The following is the email I sent him with a few tweaks to be digestable in a my own blog post.
On December, 10 2023 I woke up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and get a drink of water. Nothing out of the ordinary for a guy in his forties.
When I sat back down on the edge of the bed, I reached for my phone to see what time it was. But when I did that, I noticed that I had a notification from YouTube. Which was strange to me since I had turned off YouTube notifications years ago for my mental health.
Then I noticed that the notification was for a community guideline issue. At first I thought it had to do with the violation I received in March of 2021 about demonstrating how to install a Docker container called YTDL whose purpose is to archive media from around the internet. Nowhere in that video did I advocate or condone piracy or copyright infringement.
In fact, I said quite the opposite:
I thought this new notification was about that because I took the newly implemented training from YouTube to have previous infractions removed 90 days after completing the course.
Then, after rubbing the garbage out of my eyes and opened the message, I realized it was for a different video that was nearly 3 years old at this point. The new infracting video the third in a 4 part series. This video was about configuring Sonarr, Radarr, and Jacket to work together in unison.
When I realized that it was for a completely different piece of content that was uploaded years ago, I was frustrated. Why, after all this time, is there an issue with the video? It went up on February 5th of 2021 and had since accrued 114k views. So why now?
Also, what other content of mine might be found to be against community guidelines in the future? Now I have to put myself into a very conservative mindset about what might be misconstrued by the wrong content mod as a violation and take corrective action in the future because, again, who knows when something like this will happen again?
With regards to videos being acceptable when they were uploaded and then, some time later, not being acceptable on the platform… Well, that’s a tough one. Were the videos acceptable then? I don’t know. And that’s the problem. YouTube has been notoriously bad about being transparent with what is acceptable and what isn’t.
For a long time, for example, creators were able to talk about sex and sexuality. They were allowed to talk about adult-themed topics. Then, kind of out of nowhere, the LGBTQIA+ community got hit hard with community guideline strikes for all kinds of reasons that were never fully explained. The community was left reeling and unsure what was going to happen next.
It was like that for a long time, but recently, YouTube released an update to their guidelines about adult content and what is acceptable and what isn’t. While that’s a step in the right direction, they’re still not being as transparent as creators would like them to be.
But now there are a lot of creators who lost their livelihoods due to the initial “crackdown” on adult themes who, based on the new guidelines would have been just fine. There’s a whole community of creators who feel jaded because of this.
So, as a work around of sorts, people are using replacement words in lieu of the actual word to “avoid detection” by the systems in place. Or creators will just say the words when they’re recording, but mute the words in the final edit. Often this is done poorly and is a huge distraction from what would otherwise be good content.
It’s been an ongoing game of cat and mouse between creators and YouTube for a long time now and I don’t anticipate that changing any time soon.
If YouTube wants to do the right thing in the future, it’s pretty simple: If they implement new rules and a video is now found in violation of the new rules, then the video should be flagged and a notification should be sent to the creator. The creator should then be given an opportunity to take corrective action rather than receive a community guideline strike because the rules changed and YouTube couldn’t be bothered to be transparent about the rules, new or old.
Also, they could update their TOS to allow for the downloading of content from the site as long as the intent for the download isn’t to violate copyright. Say, for instance, archival or fair use cases.
The TOS is so overarching that even those cases aren’t allowed:
You are not allowed to:
access, reproduce, download, distribute, transmit, broadcast, display, sell, license, alter, modify or otherwise use any part of the Service or any Content except: (a) as expressly authorized by the Service; or (b) with prior written permission from YouTube and, if applicable, the respective rights holders;
I understand that it would take some work to put this into motion, but I feel like the community would benefit from it.
Also, I’m fortunate that I keep a backup copy of all of my content. Not everyone has the ability to do that due to any number of factors including limited storage space available to them. If I didn’t have my backups, those videos would just be gone with little-to-no chance of anyone else having a backup.
Unless, of course, someone else had used something like YTDL to back up the content for archival purposes.
So where does that leave creators who have been put into a situation like this?
I think there will always be a bit of apprehension when coming up with content ideas. “Will this video be considered an issue at some point? If so how long might it be before it is an issue?”
Even as I am writing this, I realized that there’s at least one more content piece that I need to pull down and move to a different platform. While this video only has a bit over 10k views on it, it’s still frustrating to think that a piece of content I worked on years ago may be considered inappropriate at some point on a platform where it has lived for nearly 3 years.
But, ultimately, it’s going to cause people to not trust the platform where they’ve spent time building an audience. And they’re going to have to hope that their audience will understand when they have to make changes to how their content is produced.
They may have to jump ship on the platform and move to a new platform entirely. Then there’s the added stress that the new platform might collapse from the cost of running a media streaming platform. Vidme was a prime example of that happening. They only made it about 3 years before having to shut down.
There’s also the risk of their audience not wanting to have to go to yet another streaming service to watch their favorite creators. So if a creator has to move to a new platform, they might not be starting completely from scratch, but it’s going to take time to build the momentum that they had on the previous platform.
I’ve talked to other creators over the years and a lot of people seem to be shifting their mindsets to basically use YouTube as a marketing tool to get their fans to join other services like Patreon or even private paid communities to help the creator support themselves because YouTube can’t be bothered to care about the creators who make the money that runs the platform and pays the executives salaries.
I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that YouTube cares far more about the advertisers than the people who create the media that the advertisers place their ads on.
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