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YouTube bans ads on "controversial" videos

18 January 2019

Some people stir up controversy, almost as if for fun.

In the USA, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones has been banned from just about every social media platform their is as a result of his extreme views and behaviour.

A small minority have cried foul over this, claiming it to be an infringement on his right to free speech.

Elsewhere, other "free speakers" have been banned or severely ankle-tapped on social media platforms such as YouTube as the streaming video giant seeks to ensure that advertisers are not embarrassed by being associated with extremists and unsavoury content.

Now I'm just a little old guy from New Zealand who makes videos about toy planes and drones. Most of my videos are either funny or educational -- or both. You'd hardly think there was much to get upset by there eh?

Well it seems you'd be wrong.

Yesterday I got notice that a couple of 6-month-old videos had been demonetized by YouTube.

I've had the occasional YouTube video demonetized before as a result of the company's wonky AI routines that sometimes give false positives for unsavoury content or offensive material. A quick appeal, some YouTube hobbit actually takes a look at the vid and the adds go back on, no problems.

This time it's different.

The email I received said that my video was banned after being "manually reviewed" so this time it wasn't some rogue algorithm at fault.

Just to be sure, I reviewed the videos myself to see what could possibly be wrong with them that they deserved demonetization.

Funny, I couldn't see anything even remotely offensive, sexual or disturbing in the content the video contained.

It was just a bit of a VLOG and some harmless drone flying.

What the hell was going on?

Well after a bit of too-ing and fro-ing, this statement from YouTube was provided:

[advertisers]"may choose not to advertise on content that's sexually suggestive, includes bad language, or is considered controversial"

That's right... one of the criteria for demonetizing videos is whether a video is considered controversial or not. Seriously!

YouTube seems to be saying that if you express an opinion or position that is at odds with the mainstream position (or YouTube's own position) on any subject, you risk having your video demonetized.

In the case of my drone videos, perhaps it that I challenge the accepted belief that drones are dangerous and that it's only a matter of time before a recreational drone brings down an airliner with horrendous loss of life. Or perhaps it was because my video includes footage shot from a drone being flown at an airport (quite legally I might add). Maybe whoever "manually reviewed" the video felt that, in the wake of the Gatwick incident, footage of a drone at an airfield was simply too "controversial".

However, their could also be much broader commercial imperatives operating here as well. One should also remember that Google has "drone delivery" plans so it sees recreational drones as a nuisance -- occupying airspace that it needs for its commercial future. Maybe, people like myself who bring science, evidence and facts into the debate over drone-risks are not to be tolerated.

Whatever the case, it is becoming very clear that Google is using its dominant position to shape what we see and hear. Demonetized videos do not get the same promotion through YouTube as those which carry monetization so as soon as you lose "monetized" status then your video goes to the bottom of the heap. This is a great way to suppress dissent and opinions you don't want getting airtime.

Of course, in the world of capitalism, he who owns the platform makes the rules -- but I fear that too many people will be totally unaware of the shaping, filtering and censorship that's going on with the media they are exposed to.

What do readers think. Has YouTube/Google just gone too far?

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