YouTube's 'advertiser-friendly' content policy sparks uproar

Some YouTube users have recently discovered they are now unable to monetise certain videos after the video-sharing platform updated its rules on advertising on 31 August 2016.

Reading the rules might not give you a clue, as the change is not really in the policy itself – it is about YouTube notifying content creators to what it considers inappropriate content. Creators will now receive emails about videos that have been demonetised.

Content that is considered "not advertiser-friendly" includes, but is not limited to:

  • Sexually suggestive content, including partial nudity and sexual humor
  • Violence, including display of serious injury and events related to violent extremism
  • Inappropriate language, including harassment, profanity and vulgar language
  • Promotion of drugs and regulated substances, including selling, use and abuse of such items
  • Controversial or sensitive subjects and events, including subjects related to war, political conflicts, natural disasters and tragedies, even if graphic imagery is not shown

YouTube spokesman said in a statement: "While our policy of demonetising videos due to advertiser-friendly concerns hasn’t changed, we’ve recently improved the notification and appeal process to ensure better communication."

As part of YouTube’s new notification process, there will be three changes.

1. There will be a “$” icon in video manager that will appear as yellow with the words “Not advertiser-friendly” – to let creators know when a video has been demonitised.

2. YouTubers will also be notified via email their ad revenue has been suspended.

3.  If YouTubers believe these claims to be unfair, they are able to appeal them.

YouTube states it will retain the right to not monetise a video, and could suspend monetisation features on channels upon "repeated breach of policy".

In response to the overwhelmingly negative backlash, the platform also releases a statement to point out that rules regarding monetisation are not new, but have been installed since 2015.  In which the YouTube community is still very not happy about it. 

In fear of the censorship issues YouTube can potentially raise, hashtag #YouTubeIsOverParty has made headlines on Twitter.

In fact, the updated regulation is becoming an issue raises additional questions. How many creators were ever aware that their videos had been demonetised before the announcement? How many videos on the site does YouTube’s algorithm deem unfriendly for advertisers? And most importantly, where should the line be drawn for advertiser-unfriendly content?

None of these queries have been answered yet.

Jenny Li, general manager at VS Media, agreed the lines were blurred, but suggested that "youtubers would have a sense on what not to talk about."

"The content policies are here for long, and the executions have been quite consistent," she said. "Youtubers usually get an alert when they break the rules, so past practices may had made it clear."