The Internet (TFC)— As a writer and video producer, I must point out one absurdity of YouTube’s recent demonetization crackdown. To make the point, I’ll use a video of mine that’s been affected as an example. By the end, I hope to have thoroughly confronted readers and, perhaps, YouTube with one question. If a video dosen’t meet the amount of views required to contest its demonetization, then why target it?
The video in question was of an interview I conducted with a leader of the group Tosa Together. Made up of residents of the Milwaukee suburb Wauwatosa, the group hopes to create a more welcoming community. A major focus of the group is race issues, as the mostly white suburb certainly has its fair share. Tosa Together also became heavily involved in pushing for transparency in the Tosa Jay Anderson police shooting of 2016.
Numerous questions continue to haunt the case even after Officer Joseph Mensah was cleared. Residents felt not enough was reported, and some feel it was covered up. I’d conducted this interview with a Tosa Together member to discuss the case and the group’s role. There’s no swearing or no rude language, just honest opinions from a local on that shooting. A local who also participated in protests calling for transparency after “the iron curtain came down’, she recalled. Earlier this month, I discovered this video–and every video I’ve made on Tosa PD–were demonetized. Another video I took of possible surveillance craft during Milwaukee’s 2016 riots joined them.
YouTube is using demonetization, bans, and restrictions to contain the spread of “controversial” or “offensive” content. However, recent months have seen the company target alternative news videos, and similar videos. By demonetizing your video, YouTube cripples its chances of even being viewed. Forget that you can’t profit from it, or boost it’s distribution with attached ads. Some won’t even find their way to a viewers suggestions tab.
If you want to contest your video’s flagging, you may request a review. Of all my videos YouTube targeted, I felt the Tosa Together interview was wholly unfounded. But when I opted to get the video reviewed, I discovered YouTube’s dirty trick. Videos can’t even qualify to be reviewed unless they get 1000 views in the prior 7 days. If not, then you have no redemptive alternative.
So you must know where this is going, to its logical conclusion of course! If my video doesn’t get enough views to meet your demonetization review requirements, then why target it at all? How is it at all acceptable to lock up creations at random and give no alternative? How then do you expect people to believe the motive isn’t censorship and control?
Since the creators crackdown began, YouTube has insisted the intention is not to censor. Rather, they claim they’re seeking a balance between free expression and pleasing advertisers. When ad’s don’t want to run on your website, revenue drops. It’s a simple equation, but one which still doesn’t explain the extent to which YouTube has gone.
The online politics talk show Secular Talk covered its own experiences with the crackdown in a few videos. Host Kyle Kulinski documented how his videos were flagged, overall revenue gutted, and his show placed on a so-called “black list”. Secular Talk pointed out how Orwellian, and broad YouTube’s definition for offensive or controversial content was. Essentially anyone who wants to make even remotely thought-provoking content is now in danger. I waited a long time to see if my videos, particularly my documentary Speak Friend And Enter, would be struck. The day finally came and now here we stand as I sit and write.
At this point, we’ll start to blur the line between journalism and activism. Numerous creators are up in arms over YouTube’s crackdown. Just recently, the company deactivated its free open source video editor. Although it claimed the software wasn’t being used, a google groups announcement by YouTube attracted dozens of negative comments. Most of these appeared to be creators, particularly Chrome Book users, insisting YouTube’s editor was their only option. Every single one of my videos was created with the editor, including my two-hour police documentary and every curse word in it.
So what are creators to do? Well, there are a few ideas, such as boycott. It would appear YouTube is so concerned about losing advertiser dollars, that it’s forgotten about losing audiences, and contributors. Staging a day without YouTube, for example, would certainly remind the company where it gets its life. Moving to an entirely new video platform which more represents creators and free expression is another option. However, that requires exploring unattended corners of the web or developing a page yourself. Infiltration is another, by that I mean flooding YouTube with so-called “controversial content”. So much that it’s nonsensical to restrict or ban it all. Less lofty, perhaps, is staging a massive online demonstration of disapproval at the nature of the demonization crackdown.
If nothing is done then this will only continue until the reality becomes beyond repair. Although YouTube’s censorship crackdown is problematic, the demonetization review is heinous. Almost as offensive as the content YouTube claims it’s not censoring. It insults our intelligence, and shows the true colors of ideological control shining through the video giant.