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YouTube addresses ‘aggressive action’ amid creator concerns over new ‘adpocalypse’

“Our community of creators are currently being hurt”

Google CEO Sundar Pichai Opens I/O Developer Conference Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

After YouTube removed ads on more than two million inappropriate videos targeting children, creators are concerned that the aggressive response may lead to another “adpocalypse.”

Journalist Tim Pool, well-known personality Philip DeFranco and others have released videos announcing their concerns that in YouTube’s effort to make the platform safer for children and family use, channels who aren’t doing anything wrong may be hit by major demonetization issues as a result. Even amid concerns being raised about demonetization, especially amongst those who use YouTube as a primary means of income, the creator base understands that YouTube is faced with a difficult task: keeping major advertisers happy and ensuring the creator community is able to continue working and monetizing off that work.

The concern from YouTubers comes days after reports that major companies including Mars, Adidas, Hewlett-Packard, Deutsche Bank and beverage company Diageo (Smirnoff, Baileys, Guinness) announced they were holding off from advertising on the site until the problem could be fixed. YouTubers experienced the fallout from similar threats earlier this year, after companies learned their ads were playing on videos promoting hateful content.

A YouTube representative told Polygon that the company was taking aggressive action that includes the use of machine learning and human moderation to filter out bad actors. The representative confirmed that conversations about how to ensure creators aren’t hit by major demonetization issues are ongoing. The full statement can be read below.

Our community of creators are currently being hurt by bad actors who are spamming our systems with videos masquerading as family content. In order to protect creators and advertisers alike, we're taking aggressive action using a combination of machine learning and people to take action on this content through age-gating, demonetization and even the removal of channels where necessary. As always, creators can appeal video-specific demonetizations, and our goal is to ultimately to protect the revenue of creators across the platform by taking these necessary actions.

YouTube’s statement comes just one week after the company announced a set of new guidelines for targeting channels creating disturbing and malicious content, which target children. In that update, the company confirmed it had hired more human moderators to review content in an effort to ensure that creators videos who don’t fall under the new guidelines are monetized.

Across the board we have scaled up resources to ensure that thousands of people are working around the clock to monitor, review and make the right decisions across our ads and content policies. These latest enforcement changes will take shape over the weeks and months ahead as we work to tackle this evolving challenge. We’re wholly committed to addressing these issues and will continue to invest the engineering and human resources needed to get it right.

YouTube has spent the past few months working on problems regarding monetization issues, including how its algorithm tags videos that are inappropriate for advertisers. In October, an update from the company posted on the community blog asserted that “there will be a 30 percent reduction in the number of videos receiving limited ads as they move to being fully monetized,” meaning that millions of videos would be fully monetized upon publishing.

YouTube’s efforts haven’t gone unnoticed by the community, but it also hasn’t assuaged their concerns. In Pool’s video on the subject, he explains that while he understands the importance of the subject matter, which inspired this recent aggressive removal of ads on channels, it’s still frustrating all the same.

“This is really frustrating to me as a YouTuber, as someone who makes videos on this platform and who relies on YouTube to make my journalism, to travel, to make a living,” Pool said. “Look, YouTube is a downright mess.”

Both Pool and DeFranco pointed out that popular channels belonging to iDubbbzTV and even Conan O’Brien were deleted as part of a technical error — one that YouTube quickly addressed. Many of the complaints YouTubers have about the way monetization is handled lead back to the current algorithm. It’s something that the team at YouTube is working on daily, representatives have confirmed to Polygon multiple times, but it’s the biggest issue the community has been adamant about, both on YouTube and other platforms like Twitter.

Alongside Pool and DeFranco, top creators like Hank Green, PewDiePie and Casey Neistat have all leant their voices to the conversation.

A representative from YouTube told Polygon that while the algorithm is being worked on, the best thing creators can do is appeal their cases.