AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File
YouTube is an interesting social media platform. At the tip of your fingers, you can learn how to replace a part of your car, make pottery, find a discussion of 14th Century warfare, and learn how to start a fire with flint and steel. There’s tons to learn there.
Once upon a time, YouTube was also a good place to get information on guns. You could learn how to swap a barrel on your shotgun, and you could learn which new guns were worth the new gun price. It was great.
Then, somewhere along the way, YouTube decided that it needed to screw over those gun channels. It was important that it signaled its virtue with regard to guns for the whole world to see. YouTube started demonetizing channels that offered certain content, mostly things like selling guns or offering gunsmithing tips. Things YouTube believed was somehow morally wrong.
Now, YouTube has stepped up its game.
The YouTube Partner Program allows creators to share the AD revenue from advertisements that appear before and after a video. The amount received varies from creator to creator but can range from a few dollars a month to a substantial amount. Some creators are able to make YouTube into their full-time job.
The Honest Outlaw is one creator that has had his channel wholly demonized without cause by Google. He reached out to YouTube support for help. According to him, the YouTube representative was very condescending. The support team could not give him an answer as to why they took his ability to make a living away but did assure him he violated some secret term of service of the Partner Program.
One key problem that creators are pointing out is that YouTube is not notifying creators until they check their analytics. A small box appears at the top of the screen stating that their channel is being removed from the YouTube Partner Program. In some cases, it will link to why their channel is being removed from the program and encourages the user to apply again in a month. Once the user clicks off the page the notification is gone and will not show up again. A lot of affected creators will never notice the notification. YouTube is not emailing the end users about their removal from the program.
Even my own YouTube channel, Black Swan Media, has been demonetized by Google. YouTube claimed that I was posting “harmful content” on my channel. Guns were not for sale through my channel. In fact, I did not sell anything.
There weren’t even gun reviews or advertisements on my channel. My channel consisted of live streams on Second Amendment issues and interviews with people from the gun world and beyond. There is nothing controversial about my channel unless YouTube considers talking about Second Amendment issues against their terms of service.
Clearly, it does.
The problem, at least as I see it, is that sites like YouTube are enjoying protections as both a publisher and a platform, and the two are supposed to be mutually exclusive.
You see, if YouTube’s a publisher, it can squelch any speech it wants without a problem. As it’s a private company, that’s certainly its right. However, YouTube also claims it’s a platform which can’t be held liable for what someone else says on the site. However, platforms aren’t permitted to discriminate based on someone’s politics.
YouTube can’t have it both ways. By picking winners and losers here, YouTube has made it clear that it wants to act like a publisher. That’s fine, of course. However, that also means it deserves to be sued the next time someone crosses the line in one of their videos, and YouTube allows it to play.
I don’t think that’s a rabbit hole YouTube wants to go down, but it is.
I’m going to be over here prepping the popcorn.