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As audiences turn to social media platforms in record numbers, advertising on YouTube is now one of the most effective ways to reach audiences. One Google study even reports that marketers can reach 56% more 18- to 49-year-olds using YouTube ads compared to prime-time broadcast television commercials. YouTube’s recent efforts to make the platform more advertiser-friendly by “demonetizing” (i.e. removing advertisements from) videos that feature profanity, violence, or otherwise explicit content, however, has prompted outcries from top content creators and set what some see as a dangerous precedent of censorship.
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On August 31st, YouTube informed a number of content creators that revenue-generating ads had been removed from videos containing profane language, nudity, violence, suggestive content, or anything else that YouTube’s algorithm deemed “unfriendly to advertisers.” In response to an outcry from a number of prominent YouTubers, the Google-owned video platform released the following statement intended to clarify exactly why some videos were being demonetized:
“While our policy of demonetizing videos due to advertiser-friendly concerns hasn’t changed, we’ve recently improved the notification and appeal process to ensure better communication to our creators.”
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The point of contention, therefore, is not the practice of demonetization (which YouTube claims it has been doing all along), but rather that YouTube stars are now being informed when their videos are being penalized. From YouTube’s perspective, removing ads from controversial content is a practical way to avoid unhappy brands, though many YouTube stars claim demonetization will lead to self-censorship—or worse, to content creators being unable to make a living doing what they love—in the near future.
Needless to say, YouTube’s community of content creators are none-too-pleased by the platform’s efforts to “clean up” content by removing one of the primary ways that YouTubers make money from their videos. As Tubefilter points out, YouTube’s previously unstandardized system for demonetization (wherein YouTubers were sometimes informed, sometimes not) may have led to some videos being demonetized for years without the content creators even knowing. In the long run, YouTube’s lack of transparency may have cost YouTube stars hundreds or thousands of dollars.
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The most notable opponent of YouTube’s “new” demonetization policy is Philipp DeFranco (of The Philip DeFranco Show), who has been making YouTube videos for over 10 years and was recently awarded a 2016 Streamy Award for Show Of The Year (Tubefilter). In a Tweet and subsequent YouTube video, DeFranco blasts YouTube for what he calls “censorship” of more than 40 of his YouTube videos and says that the move feels like a “stab in the back.”