This guest column is by Matthew Yeoman, Editor, Devumi.com blog
There is no question that YouTube is the world’s biggest online video platform. But it has not been all smooth sailing for Google’s video streaming service. It has faced many controversies along the way, faced a lot of backlash at times, and even its own creators have been quite pissed off at it from time to time.
Let’s take a look at those controversies now so that we can see what YouTube has done in the past, and hope that it can help map out a better future. This may also be an opportunity for you to find out issues you may not have known about. Be sure to check your YouTube channel for any of these issues right now, and in the future.
The biggest controversies YouTube has faced
The ‘Ad Inappropriate’ controversy
The Ad Inappropriate controversy centers around YouTube recently sending out messages to people whose content is in violation of the Ad Inappropriate policy. This meant that all creators who are creating content YouTube had deemed inappropriate were losing their ad money. They were no longer being paid, and were now being told so, but Philip DeFranco had this to say:
Youtube: This isn’t a policy change, its just a notification/appeal change.
Me: So before you were just turning off ads and not emailing us?
— Philip DeFranco (@PhillyD) September 1, 2016
And that is exactly what was happening. It soon spawned a Twitter hashtag which was part serious, and part trolling:
Previously, YouTube had just removed their ad money without notification. They were not telling their creators … anything. Many are now viewing this as a form of censorship, as Philip went on to say in a video he published:
The title was a bit over-the-top, but his point was valid. Taking away their money is a form of censorship. This is an issue which has not really been properly resolved as of yet. Be sure that you are checking your messages from YouTube, and appealing these bans when you get one.
Ongoing geo-blocking of content
The odds are good that if you live in the United States you have never faced geo-blocking before. Geo-blocking is the act of blocking websites, video content, and anything else online based on where person lives. Online services are able to do this by reading your IP address, and figuring out where you live based on that.
YouTube content is geo-blocked due to a number of reasons. Some of these reasons are due to YouTube, some of them are related to copyright issues, and some of them are related to government censorship of YouTube.
Either way, there are many YouTube users abroad who wind up seeing something like this:
For a forward thinking company, that benefits the most from a connected world, this is a frustrating problem to deal with. There are ways to get around this issue, but it is not addressed on YouTube’s end yet. Be sure to share that link with your subscribers if they are having geo-blocking problems.
The nightmare world that is YouTube’s comments section
The YouTube comments section has been one of the ugliest places online for years now. It is absolutely packed with the worst spam, trolls, and hate speech. It got so bad at one point that YouTube’s biggest star, PewDiePie, actually turned comments off of all his videos for a period of time:
To combat this still ongoing controversy, YouTube seems to have taken the wrong steps every single time. One of their first efforts was requiring people to have a Google+ account connected to their YouTube account. This… did not go over so well. It only seemed to make the comments section worse. Trolls had to troll.
Things got so real there was even a change.org petition with 241,000 people signing it. The integration was ended shortly after, and so was Pewds’ own comment banning.
Many YouTube creators still want to see a resolution. Something as simple as allowing moderators access to deleting comments could do it. YouTube seems unwilling to add this feature. We are left with nothing but a stalemate where we must flag inappropriate comments and hope that creators have time to delete them. Which they really do not.
The YouTube Red problem
The introduction of YouTube Red brought about a number of concerns for creators. Here is a brief list of what I came across during its introduction:
1. That it will one day replace the ad supported, and free to view, side of YouTube.
2. YouTube creators were pressured into signing it, with threat of being blocked if they did not.
3. That only YouTube’s top earners would see any benefit from it.
4. All major channels would go behind a paywall, and no longer be free.
5. That the service would fail completely as YouTube viewers do not want pay for content.
Turns out that most of these fears were completely unjustified. YouTube just kept trucking right along as it always had, and there was this little side project called YouTube Red that people could subscribe to if they wanted. You can really think of it as just as secondary monetization option.
You could say that we have not yet seen how YouTube Red has impacted YouTube creators who are a bit lower on the scale. At this time, is really too early to tell what will happen with this part of the platform. It’s been a fun experiment, plus we got to scare that Swedish guy:
The disaster which was The Fine Bros. React World
I willfully admit that I was never a fan of The Fine Bros. content. I may have been a little smug when the entire Internet seemed to jump on them all at once over their React World plans. The Fine Bros. entire career was built on taking other peoples videos, showing those videos to groups of people, and filming how they react. That was their entire act.
This entire act came crashing down when they introduced their new React World plans. What they wanted to do was to get other video creators working underneath their banner. They would get help from The Fine Bros., and The Fine Bros. would get their content …and a cut of their cash. That is not how the online community saw it:
— Jason WQ (@JasonWQ) January 29, 2016
These finebros reaction videos to their new REACT world are too jokes. I can’t tell if Finebros really expected a good outcome from this BS
— Freezy (@Calfreezy) January 29, 2016
And that is just a small sample of the comments that were actually fit to print. There was some serious anger, some very ugly language, and a severe backlash against The Fine Bros.
The anger all centers around copyright and trademark issues. Many in the YouTube community are in favor of the free distribution of information and ideas. They saw the move by The Fine Bros. as a move on the repression of creating a certain style of video. A certain style of video which, honestly, is not very creative or imaginative.
In reaction to this, The Fine Bros. saw this happen to their subscriber numbers:
As you can see, their subscriber numbers took an absolute nosedive. While their subscriber numbers have since recovered, it is very unlikely that the million plus subscribers that they lost at the time have returned.They are years behind where they could be.
This controversy open up a veritable Pandora’s box For YouTube. The Fine Bros. were essentially trying to copyright showing people videos and interviewing them. A segment of the YouTube community has, and likely always will, resent them for this. Always consider your community’s reaction before moving forward with plans. You never want to be the one posting something like this on Medium.
The ongoing problem of shadowbans
Shadowbanning is a tactic used in online communities by moderators who want to punish a member, but not openly. It has a number of different ways of being done, but most who claim that it has been done to them on YouTube center the discussion around comments.
The rumblings on this are faint, as YouTube would likely never admit to doing this, but there is consistent discussion on several online forums. If you are up for it you can read about people’s experiences with shadowbanning on:
Why these people are getting a Shadowband could be for a number of reasons. For some, it could be an issue with excessive flags against their account, others could be getting in trouble for sub for sub practices, and some may have inappropriately set up their Google+ account to not show comments properly. Many of these threads online are from people who cannot confirm with 100% proof that they have been shadowbanned, so take what you read with a grain of salt.
The controversy around shadowbanning appears to flare up on YouTube every now and then. Is it warranted? Perhaps, perhaps not. Making sure that people continue to test whether or not YouTube is doing this, however, is very important.
Shadowbanning is a very poor tactic to use to manage a community. If you feel like you have been shadowbanned, take the time to bring it up with Google’s support team. It’s quite possible that you had made an error in setting up your account, and it can be rectified.
What you can learn from YouTube’s biggest controversies
Some of these controversies are unwarranted. A few, however, are very real and can pose a threat to your YouTube marketing. All of them serve as a warning of watch out for, regardless of how ‘real’ they are or are not:
- The Ad Inappropriate controversy could very well impact your bottom line.
- Some of your potential fans and subscribers could be blocked from viewing your content. Again, this can impact your bottom line.
- Spam comments, and trolls, can undermine your growing community.
- Has YouTube Red been taking away some of your viewers and putting them behind a paywall? It’s possible.
- Is something you are about to do with your channel’s trademarks and copyrights going to put a huge foot in your own mouth? Stop and think before you make major moves like this.
- Are you being shadowbanned, or have you inappropriately set up your account? Be sure to contact support if you’re having issues.
Some of these controversies are well and truly justified. Others are just rumors. But they all served as warnings for issues you should watch out for if you want to keep your YouTube marketing relevant and thriving.