For those who pay no attention to these sorts of things, here’s a short recap of what’s been happening on YouTube over the past week, with my analysis. The reason I care is because it affects creators, and it’s got potential ramifications that could set precedents on other platforms that creators use.
YouTube Comment Sections
It started with a viral video showing that pedophiles were leaving vile comments on channels featuring kids. The videos themselves are innocent enough, usually wholesome family channels that are the modern equivalent of home movies. No one was intentionally creating content catering to monsters. It quickly became apparent that these commenters were kind of organized, and referring each other to more channels and videos where they could be creepy and disgusting.
Disney, Nestle, Hasbro, AT&T, Epic Games, and other large companies dropped their ads from YouTube over this issue. Those actions put pressure on YouTube to do something about it, which they did. They closed the comments sections not only on videos that were infested with slimeballs, but on any channel that contained videos that might possibly be of interest to pedos. This was bad for creators because YouTube’s algorithm, which controls which videos get promoted, takes the number of comments left into consideration. Not only can you not leave any new comments on these videos, the old comments are gone and the comment count is zeroed out. Not just on certain videos, either. On every video on a channel, regardless of the content.
The other thing YouTube did, which is what I want to address, is demonetize tons of videos. What this means is that the creator no longer gets any ad revenue from those videos. This is the part that really has people upset, because they feel like the creators are being punished for the actions of some seriously disturbed individuals.
I think I get why YouTube did it, from a business perspective. You need to understand that the sole purpose of a corporation is to make money for its shareholders. Period. YouTube doesn’t exist to give you free things to watch. It’s not there to give creators a platform, or a way to make money from the content they create. All of those are things aren’t what they do, they’re how they make they money. The company exists to make money. Full stop.
Follow the Money
Some people have been saying that YouTube was perfectly happy to make ad revenue off the pedophiles until the story broke. I don’t want to believe they were intentionally that callous. The story did break, though, and they’re losing money as advertisers bail, so they went into damage control mode. They need to lure the advertisers back.
You can still run ads on videos where the comments sections have been shut down. See, advertisers? It’s safe again! No deranged freaks saying awful things about innocent children! Please come back!
As for demonetizing entire channels that had no problems, I think that move was a preemptive strike. I’m pretty sure that when you demonetize a video, the algorithm doesn’t bother trying to hang any ads on it. Now the repugnant spume, having been driven from their existing haunts, can’t land somewhere else. An advertiser can’t look at a comment section and see that it’s safe today so they pay for an ad, only to find that same video crawling with human cockroaches tomorrow.
It’s not fair to content creators, but honestly, YouTube doesn’t really care about that. They have plenty of user-generated content to pick and choose from, which I’ll get into tomorrow in part 2. What they can’t afford to lose are the advertisers. So all of there efforts aren’t meant to safeguard users, or really even to drive out the bad actors. It’s 100% about making the place appealing to advertisers.