YouTube Policy Changes – Censorship or Just Good Business Practice?

I think I’ve mentioned before that one of my highest marks in library school was, ironically, for the one class I took within our faculty but outside our department – a “History of Information” course that was offered through the journalism school.

My final presentation in that class was about the future of online video and although I don’t write as much about changes and developments in this area as I used to (heck, at one point, I was going to start a whole different blog specifically about this topic!), I still am very interested in how how online video is changing the world in so many ways, good and bad.

Recently, there was a controversy when YouTube (who have 80% of the market for online video services) changed its rules to not post ads/generate revenue on videos relating to tragedies or other inappropriate content.  (Er, reading further, they say they didn’t change their rules – they claim they’ve actually just started notifying creators whose ads were affected, ironically, in an attempt to be more transparent.)

YouTube is a business so obviously they can set their own policies.  But it’s also a near-monopoly that, in many ways, acts like a public square.  So the line between YouTube following good business practice and YouTube practicing censorship will be different for everyone.

And even if you allow that YouTube can make their own policies, some feel the new rules aren’t being applied equally…

Popular YouTuber Philip DeFranco, who has 4.5 million subscribers, is one of the leading voices expressing irritation about the service’s pulling ads for violating its terms of service. He said ads were disabled recently for 12 of his videos apparently because they included “excessively strong language” or covered “controversial or sensitive subjects,” thereby running afoul of YouTube’s advertiser-friendly content guidelines.

Also this guy whose rant has around five million views as I type this…

Oh, and it turns out that I’m affected too.

One of my Top 5 most viewed videos of all-time is a clip of Shea having a doppler scan while pregnant with Pace which has been labeled by YouTube as “inappropriate”.

(YouTube says they haven’t changed their underlying policy but it appears that a video that made me a few bucks over the years will no longer have ads – or may only have limited ads – so this is a big change, especially for the increasing number of people who now rely on YouTube for their income.)

On that note, due to the volume of complaints about this change, YouTube will only review videos that have had 1000 views or more in the past week (mine has had 17,000 but that’s over a decade so it’s frustrating that there is no real recourse for situations like this either.)


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