Youtube… We need to talk!
Written by Jose Pernalete on January 28, 2020
Homemade videos used to be enjoyed only by your family and friends. Maybe if you were lucky enough they would put you up on TV someday in one of those “funniest videos” shows that were really popular back in the day. Not to mention amateur film making, which was incredibly limited, and if you did manage to make your very own film, getting it premiered to the public was nearly impossible by yourself.
All of this changed in an amazing way when back 2005 Youtube appeared, and it was good. A completely free platform creative people could use to publish their videos to a worldwide audience. Everything you needed was a computer and an internet connection, and no matter how dumb or simple your video was, it could be seen from everywhere in the whole world.
The relationship between Youtube and its creators was pretty good, so beneficial for one another that the site exploded in popularity. Youtube’s ads would end up earning the content creator a good amount of money for their videos. And within a few years, this new website became a job for millions, and one of the most innovative entertainment mediums. But lately, there has been a lot of new policies that have been changing all of this. Even to this day, Youtube is ranked #2 in the global Alexa rank, but creators are slowly leaving the platform. But why and when did all of this begin
If you-ve been hearing about the most recent issues with youtube, COPPA is a term that most likely rings a bell to you. To keep things simple, it’s nothing new, it was passed by Congress all the way back in 1998. COPPA stands for Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, a U.S. law created with the main focus of protecting children under 13 years online. And, among other things, the main part it stands for is preventing entities to collect personal information from users under 13 years old, that is, of course, without the express consent of a parent or guardian.
And back in September of the past year, the Federal Trade Commission fined Google for $170 million. This is caused by the massive young audience many big channels have, and as you know, these tend to do a lot of advertisements. Not only is it in the Ads that run before and during the videos, but also in their own ads creators make within their videos to sell their own products and merchandising.
While selling merchandise is not illegal at all, the issue comes from the amount of advertisement delivered directly to the younger audience with no moderation or control. This even added up to the prohibition to collect data from users under 13 years old, and this means they had to do some extreme changes to the site. These changes wouldn’t only affect new videos and channels, but also pretty much all existing content on the platform. But how are these changes implemented in the platform to make it COPPA friendly?
These new changes apply mainly to the ad-targeting system, which is pretty much the main source of income for the content creators. The new policies demand that creators directly identify the target of their videos, and even starting here there are some issues but we’ll get into that later on.
Once creators have identified their target, they will be split up into two categories, channels with child-friendly content, and adult channels. The ones that fall under the first category will not be allowed to get Ads at all, this means no ad revenue, no self-promotion of merchandise, no income at all basically. Even the comments will be denied.
Without the possibility of getting pretty much any revenue at all, you might think, well, then why not just label my channel as adult content then? Well, then we go into other issues.
Sure, you could just go ahead and label your channel as not child-friendly, and that would allow ads, merchandising, comments and everything that was removed. But your videos will not show up for users under 13 years old. This means that you’ll lose the audience big time.
Now, maybe you’re just an educational channel that wants to keep ad revenue, so you’ll have to mark up your content as not child-friendly and well, lose the audience right? No, it would not solve the issue. If you use moderate language (no swearing, profanities, etc), make content that could be attractive to a younger audience, or just straight up making videos for kids labeled under the adult-content mark, you can get into serious trouble. New non-specified sanctions can come into your channel if you deliberately misplaced your content target label. This also works the other way around, by the way.
Most animations channels Youtube may also see as child-inviting content, and then will pretty much be automatically penalized. Not to mention one of the site ‘s most popular types of content, gaming channels.
Even with the popularity of Twitch as one of the main platforms for streaming gaming videos, Youtube is still the most popular, and some of the biggest YouTubers started as gaming channels. Even Pewdiepie, the most popular content creator on the site used to be mainly a gaming channel.
The sanctions for misplacing your label would not only be placed by Youtube, but by the FTC itself, as they hold the content creators directly responsible, and the fines applied could surpass the $40k mark.
Youtube, not a creator-friendly site anymore
It’s nothing to see Youtube implementing new rules for its creators, they obviously have been getting their policies stronger and stronger. But one of the main issues is the lack of communication and transparency. The same thing happened when they started demonetizing channels over the content they deemed offensive.
There is no clear set of rules as to what is considered “offensive” by Youtube and now has become just a tool for damaging, demonetizing and cutting off some channels with different views than Youtube. Now they don’t make clear at all as what is the real difference between “kid directed” and “kid attractive” content. This lack of definitions and guidelines lead to the policies not being fair, nor transparent.
Slowly, Youtube has become less about giving creators the freedom to create whatever they want and more about politics, limitations and unfair rules. What used to be a place where people could upload their videos, animation, guides, recipes, commentaries, and even opinions, has now become one of stops, of no possibilities, rid of freedom.
Even though some groups don’t believe that Youtube’s policies go far enough, it is now placing all the burden on the creators, and the platform doesn’t do anything at all to defend its creators. And that’s pretty much how what started as a new and exciting way to share content, into a prison cell that leaves their creators stranded on their own against the world