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YouTube’s open letter regarding Logan Paul is full of excuses, not ownership

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Transparency, transparency, transparency

Logan Paul YouTube/Logan Paul

Update: YouTube confirmed to Polygon today that it removed Logan Paul from its top-tier Google Preferred ad program, adding that all of his YouTube Red projects are on hold.

YouTube released a statement yesterday condemning Logan Paul’s controversial video, acknowledging the vlog was in violation of community guidelines and claiming the company did everything it could to rectify the situation.

The statement was released over a series of tweets, but this is the most important part:

We expect more of the creators who build their community on @YouTube, as we’re sure you do too. The channel violated our community guidelines, we acted accordingly, and we are looking at further consequences.

Despite the company saying it “acted accordingly,” YouTube clearly didn’t.

Between when Paul’s original video was published on Dec. 31, and the time it was taken down on Jan. 2, there were a series of events that occurred that had little to do with YouTube. An age-gate was reportedly instituted on the video by Paul; the YouTube moderation team allegedly reviewed the video after receiving a flag and deemed it OK; Paul’s video reached number 10 on trending without anyone from YouTube taking notice; and then Paul finally took the video down, not YouTube.

This point hasn’t gone unnoticed by the YouTube community, which called out the company’s lack of accountability.

It’s not only that YouTube is trying to make itself look like every possible action was taken to ensure the least amount of damage was done. The video earned more than six million views before Paul removed it — again, not YouTube — and made the top 10 trending list. As Philip DeFranco said, YouTube was either ignorant of the fact that this video was circulating or complicit in its promotion.

Here’s the bottom line: YouTube screwed up, and the company needs to finally take responsibility for its mistakes.

If you’re going to break your own rules, own up to it

The problems facing YouTube are similar to what Twitter has been going through.

YouTube has a strict set of guidelines that come with clear consequences if those guidelines are broken. In the case of Logan Paul, because YouTube deemed his video to be in violation of community guidelines, he should have received a strike against his channel. This could result in monetization problems down the road and essentially put Paul on probation in YouTube’s eyes.

We don’t know if that happened — we actually don’t know what YouTube has done. Multiple requests sent to YouTube for further information have remained unanswered. From what we can tell, no action has been taken against Logan Paul, despite the company saying otherwise.

Here’s where YouTube and Twitter are similar; the companies bend and break their own rules all of the time, but they never own up to it. There’s always a reason — a new rule put in place, some new exception — that excuses the behavior of the mistake. Charlie Warzel, a senior editor at Buzzfeed, wrote this about Twitter in December 2016:

But while Twitter’s rules are explicit, the company’s interpretation and enforcement of those rules is far more opaque.

That same criticism can be applied to YouTube.

The most common comparison being used right now is between PewDiePie, YouTube’s most popular creator, and Paul. When PewDiePie was discovered to have anti-Semitic imagery in a video, YouTube canceled the second season of his show, Scare PewDiePie, and doled out a number of other consequences. In the span of more than a week, YouTube seemingly hasn’t done anything to Paul’s channel, despite the company’s rules stating otherwise.

There are bigger questions about why YouTube decides to enforce rules on some channels but not others. But YouTube never takes responsibility for the content on its platform from some of the biggest, most-watched creators — and how it tries to hide behind excuses when something goes wrong. YouTube didn’t “act accordingly” — it didn’t act at all — but the company will never admit to it.

The disconnect between creators and YouTube has been growing steadily for more than a year. On Dec. 4, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki published a blog post addressing those exact concerns, promising to do better and provide a better platform for the creator community. Wojcicki even admitted the company needs to be more transparent, writing:

We understand that people want a clearer view of how we’re tackling problematic content. Our Community Guidelines give users notice about what we do not allow on our platforms and we want to share more information about how these are enforced. That’s why in 2018 we will be creating a regular report where we will provide more aggregate data about the flags we receive and the actions we take to remove videos and comments that violate our content policies. We are looking into developing additional tools to help bring even more transparency around flagged content.

Part of that clearer view is admitting when the company is wrong, not just creators.

No, YouTube, you didn’t act accordingly. It didn’t do anything. It’s time to stop trying and pretend that it did everything it could to prevent a sensationalized, disturbing video from making the rounds on its platform, being seen by millions of kids.

It’s time for YouTube own up to its mistakes or own up to its inability to enforce the rules platform-wide, applying them to each creator equally.