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To Combat High-Profile Abuse of Its Platform, YouTube Punishes Small Timers

YouTube isn’t just for cat videos and unboxings anymore. As the first few days of 2018 showed us, it’s also for massive jerkwads like Logan Paul to gain fame with increasingly horrendous stunts. To combat this abuse of its platform by megastars with huge followings, YouTube is punishing content creators with fewer than 1,000 subscribers.

For those unfamiliar—and we don’t blame you for not keeping up with every detail of YouTube drama—creators on YouTube make money through what’s known as the YouTube Partner Program (or YPP). This allows everyone from megastars like Markiplier to nobodies like those creepy YouTube scammers to make money on preroll ads, banner ads, and YouTube Red subscribers. In theory, this is a good thing, allowing anyone with content worth watching (problematically defined simply as “content lots of people watch”) to earn a living.

However, YouTube’s light touch approach to moderation has let a slew of bad actors through. Everyone from the aforementioned creepy kids videos to insufferable human megastars like Logan Paul can make money by creating content that appeals either to the inscrutable YouTube algorithm, or to humanity’s natural tendency to share things that make them angry. It doesn’t matter if it’s good or good for you, as long as it gets views and, therefore, money.

In an effort to curb abuse of its platform, YouTube announced that it’s going to change the eligibility requirements for the YPP. Specifically, if you don’t have at least a thousand subscribers on YouTube, you can kiss your check goodbye:

Starting today we’re changing the eligibility requirement for monetization to 4,000 hours of watchtime within the past 12 months and 1,000 subscribers. We’ve arrived at these new thresholds after thorough analysis and conversations with creators like you. They will allow us to significantly improve our ability to identify creators who contribute positively to the community and help drive more ad revenue to them (and away from bad actors). These higher standards will also help us prevent potentially inappropriate videos from monetizing which can hurt revenue for everyone.

In theory, this sounds like a decent idea, but there’s the massive question mark of who this really addresses. Megastars like Logan Paul can still, for example, post and monetize graphic videos of disturbing content (or the subsequent apology videos). Likewise, channels that make money by gaming the YouTube algorithm to show horrifying distortions of kids shows to children can easily reach this number. I performed a cursory—and unsettling—search while writing this and was still able to find channels posting the same types of creepy kids videos, each with subscribers in the hundreds of thousands. Gaming the system to reach these numbers is not hard.

So, who really gets hurt? For starters, local and small-time channels. As an example, an Atlanta-based video production company near me named RockPunch currently has 901 subscribers. They’ve been producing sketches and videos for over two years (and well within YouTube’s terms of service), but they don’t meet the new threshold for monetization. Oh well.

YouTube has a nasty habit of over correcting in the wrong direction for known problems in its community and, at first glance, this seems like yet another instance of that. It’s possible that choosing to broadly demonetize small time channels will free up YouTube resources to give a more personal touch to bigger channels. And perhaps the channels that get cut off aren’t necessarily depending on YPP for their livelihood (YouTube even says that 99% of those channels earn less than $100 a year), but when the new policy doesn’t affect the existing problems, and only seems to hurt users who did nothing wrong, we’re left to wonder what the point of the new policy is anyway.

Source: YouTube Creators Blog

Eric Ravenscraft Eric Ravenscraft
Eric Ravenscraft has nearly a decade of writing experience in the technology industry. His work has also appeared in The New York Times, PCMag, The Daily Beast, Geek and Sundry, and The Inventory. Read Full Bio »