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YouTube have recently updated their terms of service after an alleged incident, causing another “adpocalypse”.
The first adpocalypse came around March 2017, with many advertisers threatening to pull their money from YouTube over their adverts appearing in content they deemed inappropriate. In summer of that year, YouTube updated their policies so adverts would only appear on “family friendly” content. Some believe this has partly lead to what they believe is YouTube’s harsh and non-transparent terms for monetization, resulting in content creators having to rely on third parties such as sponsorship or the Patreon to continue making a living via YouTube.
While there have been at least two other accusations of adpocalpyses occurring (one over content aimed at children being inappropriate and the other being accusations of pedophiles using the platform to share illicit videos), a recent incident means advertisers may distance themselves from YouTube yet again in spite of harsher terms on users.
Carlos Maza (a writer at Vox), posted a Twitter thread on May 30th and 31st regarding political commentator Steven Crowder. In it, Maza shows a compilation of clips from Crowder’s show calling Maza queer and sprite, guests calling Maza queer, Crowder mocking him with a gay lisp stereotype impression, using unflattering videos of him and referring to Maza in other mocking and deriding terms. Crowder would later claim these were all comedy and responding to videoes Maza had made on him.
YouTube also issued a statement to Gizmodo elaborating further:
We take into consideration whether criticism is focused primarily on debating the opinions expressed or is solely malicious. We apply these policies consistently, regardless of how many views a video has.
In videos flagged to YouTube, Crowder has not instructed his viewers to harass Maza on YouTube or any other platform and the main point of these videos was not to harass or threaten, but rather to respond to the opinion.
There is certain behavior that is never ok: that includes encouraging viewers to harass others online and offline, or revealing nonpublic personal information (doxxing).
None of Maza’s personal information was ever revealed in content uploaded by Crowder and flagged to our teams for review.
In addition Maza pointed out Crowder was allegedly wearing and selling a shirt with the words “socialism is for fags” printed on it. However the shirt was always censored, featuring a fig leaf over the “a”. Crowder and others have also claimed it was a joke, and that it reads “socialism hates figs”.
Maza alleges this encouraged abuse toward him. “These videos get millions of views on YouTube. Every time one gets posted, I wake up to a wall of homophobic/racist abuse on Instagram and Twitter.” Maza also alleges when he was doxxed last year, he received constant calls and texts demanding he “debate Steven Crowder.”
Maza then states he is not mad with Crowder, but YouTube. Maza felt that Crowder was in violation of the terms of service, under the segment on harassment and cyber bullying. Maza then accused YouTube of not enforcing their terms against Crowder “Because Crowder has 3 million YouTube subscribers, and enforcing their rules would get them accused on anti-conservative bias.”
On June 4th, YouTube replied to these messages via Twitter.
(1/4) Thanks again for taking the time to share all of this information with us. We take allegations of harassment very seriously–we know this is important and impacts a lot of people.
(2/4) Our teams spent the last few days conducting an in-depth review of the videos flagged to us, and while we found language that was clearly hurtful, the videos as posted don’t violate our policies. We’ve included more info below to explain this decision:
(3/4) As an open platform, it’s crucial for us to allow everyone–from creators to journalists to late-night TV hosts–to express their opinions w/in the scope of our policies. Opinions can be deeply offensive, but if they don’t violate our policies, they’ll remain on our site.
(4/4) Even if a video remains on our site, it doesn’t mean we endorse/support that viewpoint. There are other aspects of the channel that we’re still evaluating– we’ll be in touch with any further updates.
Maza then expressed his dissatisfaction with another Twitter thread. “To be crystal clear: @YouTube has decided that targeted racist and homophobic harassment does not violate its policies against hate speech or harassment. That’s an absolutely batshit policy that gives bigots free license.” Maza then continued, discouraging other LGBT content creators from using the platform for YouTube alleged “using” of them to appeal to advertisers while not enforcing their own terms to prevent them being abused.
Maza also stated he believed that due to YouTube’s public comment on the matter, abuse against LGBT content creators on the platform would increase as they had “publicly stated that racist and homophobic abuse doesn’t violate their anti-bullying policies. Crowder and his allies are going to be emboldened. I genuinely can’t imagine what LGBT employees at YouTube are doing right now.” Finally, Maza encouraged LGBT content creators to “raise hell. Use their platform against them. Hold them accountable for their neglect,” and to no longer participate in YouTube’s Pride and Public relations package.
While some showed support to Maza, others became outraged. This was due to allegations Maza had encouraged his own users to assault perceived right-wing supporters and prevent them from gathering at public events. “Milkshake them all. Humiliate them at every turn. Make them dread public organizing.”
“YouTube is dominated by Alt-Right monsters who use the platform to target their critics and make their lives miserable. Its been happening for a long time, its been happening since way before me, and the response from people who’ve experienced this is: “Yeah I agree, to hell with YouTube, I can’t believe they’re branding themselves as pride allies.”
And I heard you have Raymond Braun coming up on the show [a YouTuber who produced “State of Pride” a movie about LGBT pride exclusively on YouTube], I hope you ask him what it’s like to make- basically corporate propaganda for a company that doesn’t care about people.
The response from critics- people who love Steven Crowder- have been that I’m a fascist and I’m an NBC plant trying to take down a competitor [NBC owns Vox Media], which is so dumb I don’t know what to say to it.
But it’s sent to distract from the reality which is that Steven Crowder is not the problem, Alex Jones isn’t the problem, these individual actors are not the problem- they are symptoms and the product of YouTube’s design, which is meant to reward the most inflammatory, bigoted and engaging performers.
Steven Crowder is YouTube’s ideal creator. He makes cheap, long content that tonnes of people want to subscribe to, he sells shirts on the platform that say “socialism is for fags” which YouTube continues to allow.
He is what an ideal YouTube creator looks like, and YouTube’s branding about caring about queer people is meant to distract advertisers from the fact that they have no handle on their platform, and that people who run their ads on YouTube are gonna end up having their ads appear on videos with hate speech and bigoted harassment of queer people and marginalized communities.”
Others grew concerned at the video, feeling Maza was intentionally attempting to start another adpocalpyse with accusations that YouTube were yet again not putting adverts on appropriate videos. Journalist Tim Pool also accused Maza of using a “scorched earth policy” as his income comes primarily through Vox Media rather than YouTube. In addition Pool accuses Maza of attempting to drive away advertisers from YouTube so Vox Media can utilize them on their platforms instead.
On June 5th, YouTube announced an update to their terms of service via their official blog, with most changes becoming effective that day.
“Today, we’re taking another step in our hate speech policy by specifically prohibiting videos alleging that a group is superior in order to justify discrimination, segregation or exclusion based on qualities like age, gender, race, caste, religion, sexual orientation or veteran status.”
The blog continued, explaining this would also include videos that promote or glorify Nazi ideology and removing content denying “well-documented violent events” took place, such as the Holocaust and the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting.
Such videos could remain up based on context. YouTube also states that “We recognize some of this content has value to researchers and NGOs looking to understand hate in order to combat it, and we are exploring options to make it available to them in the future.”
The blog post also discussed “Reducing borderline content and raising up authoritative voices.” A policy implemented in the US in January of this year “[limiting] recommendations of borderline content and harmful misinformation” would be brought to more countries by the end of 2019. The blog post claims that recommendations for that kind of content had dropped by over 50%.
The blog also alleged the technology behind identifying “borderline content” was improving:
“Our systems are also getting smarter about what types of videos should get this treatment, and we’ll be able to apply it to even more borderline videos moving forward. As we do this, we’ll also start raising up more authoritative content in recommendations, building on the changes we made to news last year. For example, if a user is watching a video that comes close to violating our policies, our systems may include more videos from authoritative sources (like top news channels) in the “watch next” panel.”
Finally, the blog discussed “Continuing to reward trusted creators and enforce our monetization policies”. While discussing past efforts, it also mentioned what new efforts they were making:
“In the case of hate speech, we are strengthening enforcement of our existing YouTube Partner Program policies. Channels that repeatedly brush up against our hate speech policies will be suspended from the YouTube Partner program, meaning they can’t run ads on their channel or use other monetization features like Super Chat.”
While this may seem like a heel-turn by YouTube, journalist and YouTuber Phillip DeFranco claims in a recent video that his sources claim the new policy had “been in the works for a while now.”
In the wake of the new rules, there are claims of many accounts being demonetized with allegedly “thousands of channels under review.” We are also received multiple alleged reports that the accounts being targeted are conservative supporting. The “Vox Adpocalpyse” drew even more attention to it, with the hashtag allegedly becoming the highest trending on Twitter in the US on June 5th.
Criticism soon arose at the hypocrisy of allowing Maza being unpunished for his alleged behavior and threats and that YouTube was being biased against conservative content creators. Many also began to feel Vox had intentionally manufatured the controversy so it could “stay afloat“, as a follow up attack after failing to “go after” YouTuber Pewdiepie, and “dropping a nuke on everyone to get one guy.”
Pool claimed that by “raising authoritative voices,” YouTube was effectively supporting major media outlets such as Vox Media over independent content creators, further fueling suspicion Maza was attempting to support Vox Media with his actions. “In the end I think what we’ll end up seeing is Vox is going to get promoted- heavily- and conservative and independent creators will be deranked or just not recommended.” Pool continues, stating the rules are intentionally vague “to give YouTube discretion in getting rid of whoever they they want.”
Journalist Ford Fisher explained his dissatisfaction with his entire YouTube channel being demonetized.
“Within minutes of @YouTube’s announcement of a new purge it appears they caught my outlet, which documents activism and extremism, in the crossfire. I was just notified my entire channel has been demonetized. I am a journalist whose work there is used in dozens of documentaries.”
Fisher also claimed that his channel focused on “current events for the purpose of understanding them being able to provide critical analysis,” and how “Documentaries and newscasters use it as such every week. Demonetization is shutting down analysis of current events.”
This would be against what YouTube stated they would avoid in their blog. In addition, historical context and analysis of hateful speech also appears to have been violated as YouTuber “Mr Allsop History” explained he had been banned for analysis of Nazi propaganda speeches.
“So the fuck what. Basically all political content gets “demonetized.” Crowder’s revenue stream isn’t from YouTube ads. It’s from selling merch and “Socialism Is For Fags” shirts to millions of loyal customers, that @YouTube continues to drive to his channel. For free.”
“Demonetizing [clap emoji] doesn’t [clap emoji] work.
Abusers use it as proof they’re being “discriminated” against. Then they make millions off of selling merch, doing speaking gigs, and getting their followers to support them on Patreon.
The ad revenue isn’t the problem. It’s the platform.”
Supporters of Maza have also shown dissatisfaction with YouTube’s action, further stoking the belief some hold that US liberals wish to censor those who do not agree with them. Crowder’s shirt was also allegedly removed from Shopify.
Crowder produced a video on Twitter regarding a discussion he had with YouTube. He states that a lot of information in the public eye was “wholly inaccurate” and the next adpocalypse is coming “for a lot of you- hard.”
“It’s gonna be happening fast and strong and it’s probably gonna be happening to a lot more of you than you realize. Certainly a lot of the top YouTube creators out there who have entertainment channels.”
He also stated the ability to “make a living” through creating content online in general (but particularly on YouTube) was going to “change drastically and I would say more than ever before.”
With many of the top gaming YouTube channels being gaming related, we have to wonder how it could affect them. With examples of context not mattering, could an LGBT character being attacked in a video game (even if they are an enemy) be deemed harassment? What about older games that may use offensive stereotyping for comedic effect, or even to mock and undermine said stereotypes?
We will keep you updated as we learn more. How do you guys feel about the new policies? Sound off in the comments below!