Is YouTube Really Over?

YouTube has been in the news a lot as of late, largely in part due to the exodus of major advertisers leaving the platform. In the wake of new YouTube demonetization policies and smear campaigns from mainstream media outlets, YouTube content creators have been consistently losing advertising revenue. In the last two weeks, YouTube advertisement rates have gone down by 75 percent.

The controversy started back in September 2016, when YouTube released their new demonetization policies. These new changes entailed that any video containing questionable material would be flagged for demonetization. When a video is demonetized, advertisements are prevented from being played on it, which in turn prevents content creators from receiving money for their work. Although the changes seem like a good solution to prevent creators from getting paid for content containing hate speech, or racism, many YouTubers found their videos getting flagged wrongfully. YouTubers soon learned that they couldn’t talk about certain sensitive topics such as murder, rape or drug use without their video getting demonetized immediately, even if they had an educated opinion on the matter. Despite creating content that was educational, YouTubers were prevented from getting paid for their content. This was a transition that changed YouTube from a place where anyone with an opinion could make a living off it, if so valued by the community, to a place where you can’t mention sensitive topics at all without being demonetized.

The controversy got worse when mainstream media outlets started finding examples of “hate speech” in videos of large YouTubers such as PewDiePie (although the examples were taken out of context, and PewDiePie’s words misconstrued), and threatening major advertisers with the information. Because major advertisers don’t want their products being advertised on such videos, they have all started to leave YouTube as a platform. However, the reasons behind these advertisers leaving goes deeper than it appears on the surface.

By shrouding Google’s YouTube in controversy, it makes advertising on the platform seem like a less than viable option for most advertisers. This causes advertisers to find a more “respectable” medium in which to advertise their products. Two of the most prominent advertisers who have pulled out are AT&T and Verizon, who spend a cumulative $3.5 Billion on advertising per year. Here’s where it gets sticky. AT&T, who pulled out from YouTube under the guise of “too much objectionable content”, owns major television companies such as HBO, TNT, TBS, Warner Brothers, and CNN. Guess who competes with major companies such as these? Independent entertainment and news channels on YouTube.

In the same way, Verizon has little to lose by creating the narrative that Google’s YouTube is a haven for objectionable content, because Verizon owns Yahoo!. By smearing the image of YouTube, these major corporations are practically forcing advertisers to leave YouTube as a platform. This gives major companies like AT&T and Verizon a chance to lure these advertisers back to their own “respectable” platforms.

As of now, more than 250 advertisers are boycotting YouTube – many out of fear for not boycotting, due to the extensive racism smear campaign created by mainstream media outlets and major corporations. Just two months ago, Eric Feinberg, CEO of GIPEC, a company which monitors online content, is quoted saying, “You look at corporate America’s ads in front of these videos, and it really has a reputational risk… the advertising community needs to take responsibility, go to YouTube, and threaten to pull their ads.” The media gladly gave Feinberg this platform, as it promotes the idea that YouTube is littered with objectionable content, thus driving advertisers back to their own websites.

In a recent article about Feinberg it’s stated that, “Feinberg has spent the last few months finding ad-supported content linked to terror and hate groups, and pushing links and screen shots proving it happened to journalists in the U.K. and U.S.” Why would he do this you may ask? Well, it has to do with Google’s artificial intelligence that filters unsavory content from YouTube. Google recently stated that they are “beefing up their tech efforts and hiring more people to prevent placement of ads with unsavory content.” In response to this claim, Feinberg stated that he doubts Google can succeed in this task without, “violating my patent.” This means that a large part of the controversy was caused by GIPEC, out of fear that Google would violate their patent.

The controversy continues, but as to whether YouTube will continue as the free speech platform that it is, time will tell.