YouTube seem to be making a concentrated effort lately to alienate their creators. They’ve always been notorious for doing this, due to their lack of proper communication with users, arbitrary terms of service, and their idiotic content ID systems. However, this past year they seem to have gone into overdrive, with PR blunder after PR blunder leading many people to question if they’re intentionally trying to ruin their own business.
2016 has seen more than its fair share of YouTube controversies, with the ‘where’s the fair use’ movement arising in response to unwarranted copyright strikes, and the recent terms of service nonsense that was implemented without warning. For those who don’t know, the latter occurred within the last month, and made it so that videos can be flagged as inappropriate, and thus de-monetised, if they so much as contain bad language, offensive content, or even the gentlest discussion about controversial material. That’s right, YouTubers can’t even talk or comment upon certain things anymore, without risking their economic security.
Suffice it to say, this new initiative didn’t go down well with anyone. Like seriously, ANYONE. Creators felt like they were being unfairly restricted by the new rules, and regular YouTube viewers became concerned that all the remaining content on the site would be bland, safe and innocuous. Think about, if we can’t even touch upon subjects that might potentially offend people, then what do we have left? To clear things up, this would mean no more reviews of violent movies, no more discussions of political or social matters, and no more remotely adult comedy. All that will remain commercially viable is funny cat videos and vapid vlogs. So that’s what we’ll get. Is that the environment YouTube wants for us? Apparently so, as this is what they deem to be ‘Advertiser friendly’. Try reading that phrase aloud without doing so in a mocking tone, I bet you can’t.
Of course we’re in the wrong. Companies don’t want to be associated with any naughty words or serious discussions. In fact, it apparently matters to them so much, that they’re willing to sacrifice a substantial amount of their audience. No, they want the most clean-cut image possible, and as we all know, attaching an advert to a random popular video is obviously the same as endorsing its content. I mean think about it, if you saw an advert for Colgate appear before a review of The Human Centipede, you would assume that the toothpaste manufacturer was condoning sewing people together face-to-ass. Oh no wait! You wouldn’t, because you’re not a moron!
We all know that these promotions crop up sporadically on popular videos, so we’re more than aware that there’s no implicit connection between the views of the advertisers and the content of the attached video. I mean doesn’t every company under the sun want a spot in the Game of Thrones ad-break? Does that accordingly mean that they want to be associated with rape, child murder and incest? Or does it mean that they want lots of people to see their products? I don’t know about you, but if I see something shocking on a YouTube video, my response is usually going to be directed at the creator. The advert the popped up beforehand is hardly going to be at the forefront of my thinking!
It doesn’t even make sense from a business perspective, because you’re only limiting the reach of your external PR. If you’re distancing yourself from some of the channels with the largest subscriber bases, just because they might say the word ‘fuck’, then you’re only limiting your audience. The logic here baffles me! No one was crying out for this. No one! This doesn’t benefit consumers, it doesn’t benefit creators (you know, the people who YouTube rely on to make their money), it doesn’t benefit advertisers, and it certainly doesn’t benefit the video service itself.
On top of this, there was the cowardly way that YouTube introduced this new policy. And by that I mean that they didn’t bother to introduce it at all. They thought they’d try and sneak it past everyone because they knew it was a load of bull. It’s pathetic really, that a massive corporation like this doesn’t even have the balls to admit what they’re doing.
My stance on the issue is very clear-cut. I totally oppose any form of censorship on YouTube, unless of course the content in question is explicitly illegal. If someone says something that I don’t like, well then it’s their right to say it. If I got my panties in a bunch every time someone annoyed me online, I’d be a pretty miserable prick. What’s controversial or offensive is entirely subjective, and it is therefore morally dubious to try and police these things. Where does it end? Who decides what’s fair game? YouTube? I certainly hope not, because as they’ve demonstrated with their content ID system, they haven’t got a clue how to regulate their own site! Not only that, but they don’t even have the manpower to go through every video out there and check for any ‘unfriendly’ content.
Well boy do they have solution to this particular predicament! ‘Have no fear, YouTube heroes are here to save the day!’ That’s right, the answer to this sticky situation is to hand everyone a gun and a badge, and let the public moderate itself. I mean holy shit, are they trying to sabotage themselves? That’s the only explanation I can think of! That or they’ve gone mad with power and are now spiralling into a whirlwind of self-destruction. It’s bordering on Shakespearean! Just who’s idea was this? ‘Let’s have the community report negative content and mass flag vidoes!’
How could a boardroom of people hear this pitch and approve of it? In fact, are people even running this company anymore, or has the automated system become self aware and taken over? Is it Skynet? It’s Skynet isn’t it? It makes sense, after all, it’s literally trying to turn us meatbags against each other!
The sheer idiocy on display here is staggering. Here’s the gist in the exact words of the YouTube Help department. ‘You work hard to make YouTube better for everyone and like all heroes you deserve a place to call home. Welcome to YouTube Heroes. Gain points when you; add captions or subtitles to videos, report negative content, or share your knowledge with others’. So essentially, this is an initiative that promises to reward people (who presumably have nothing better to do) for trawling through videos and ratting on anything they personally don’t like.
Can you not see how catastrophic that will turn out? It’s gonna be utter anarchy! You’re going to empower the exact kind of people who shouldn’t have authority over the flagging of videos. Who are those people exactly? Why, they’re the people that would want to do this for free! They are the kind of people who will abuse this newfound power, and will use it to threaten the livelihoods of those who have dedicated their time and effort into establishing successful channels. Do you really think that the only videos that are going to be reported in this system are those that are guilty of crossing some kind of ethical line? No. It’s not going to be actual hate-speech, or actual illegal content that is shut down. Instead, every video will be a target, because if there’s someone out there with even the smallest iota of power that doesn’t like it, then by default it should be removed for everybody else.
You just gave a loaded weapon to every troll, every busybody, and every pissy little whiner who is prone to being ‘triggered’ at the tiniest of imagined slights. No rational person is going to want to be a ‘YouTube hero’. The only people that will take up the offer, are those with a chip on their shoulder, who want to silence those that they dislike. I mean, let’s say you gave that power to me and I started wielding it recklessly. What’s to stop me from reporting every teen vlogger that I hate as being in someway offensive? What’s to stop me from flagging every single Pewdiepie video out there? He plays scary video games, that’s not ‘ad-friendly’.
And if you’re naive enough to think that people will be innocent until proven guilty under this system, then you are sadly mistaken. YouTube have already demonstrated that they have no regard for fairly investigating individual cases, as evidenced by their horrendous handling of copyright claims, whereby the accused is simply assumed to be in the wrong and the strike goes through without any kind of assessment. There have even been instances where people have been hit with fraudulent copyright strikes over their own original content, and YouTube have still upheld the claim because the process is all automated. So why should we believe that creators will be adequately protected from people abusing the YouTube Heroes system, when Content ID is still such a total clusterfuck?
And it gets worse. Someone had the bright idea to turn this whole farce into a literal game! ‘Heroes’ will get points for reporting as many videos as they can, in the pursuit of reaching new ‘levels’. Seriously? You don’t tell a cop to arrest as many people as possible for a pay rise, otherwise you’re just encouraging them to arrest everybody! Why should these people be rewarded for reporting content? They should be reporting content because they feel morally compelled to, not because they earn these pathetic reward points.
AND IT GETS EVEN WORSE. At level 3 in this tidal wave of corporate ineptitude, ‘Heroes’ will get the ability to mass flag videos. Oh goodie! So you’re telling me that the people who have made a habit out of reporting the most stuff, will now get to report stuff even faster and easier. You’re literally looking for the most trigger happy people out there, and then upgrading their weapon from a handgun to a bazooka! In what world does that make sense? Either no one should get to mass flag videos, or everyone should (guess which one I opt for). Regulation isn’t a game! You don’t pick favourites and then deny access to others!
I can’t wrap my head around any of this. The logic is too impenetrable for me. I only hope that YouTube listen to the resounding outcry against the Heroes initiative (just take a look at the like-to-dislike ratio on that video) and nip this in the bud before it goes any further. I was honestly speechless when I saw the announcement video. It’s at the point where YouTube have reached Konami levels of stupidity and contempt. I don’t know what the future of YouTube is now, because a lot of high-profile creators are getting pissed, and are emigrating to other services. I don’t blame them, because YouTube has shown time and time again that it has no respect for them or what they do. It won’t support them properly, it won’t communicate to them clearly and it won’t give them a leg to stand on in copyright disputes. Why should they stay? Why should anyone put up with this?
If you even slightly agree with anything I’ve said, then please, just give the video below another dislike. It probably won’t make a difference, but we should at least call this out for what it is.