YouTube has been doing some cleaning up on the platform. On December 13th YouTube tweeted via @YTCreators that they will be deleting spam accounts resulting in possible subscribers loses. Now they’re cleaning out videos they deem “inappropriate”, subsequentially whole channels and their livelihoods.
Heads up, Creators:
On Dec 13-14 you may see a noticeable decrease in your sub count as we remove spam subscriptions. If spam is removed, you'll see a YouTube Studio alert: https://t.co/3KWMixSXRl
This should help give you confidence that the subs you do have are real fans!
— Team YouTube (@TeamYouTube) December 13, 2018
YouTube posted this tweet on December 13th, also linking to the forum that featured the email that was sent out to creators on the topic. No one seemed to have an issue with this change. The cleanup even got rid of many subscribers from T-Series, a large Indian media channel and second biggest channel. What was the issue was their next way of cleaning up. Deleting channels that violate their vague Community Guidelines.
The 58 Million
Since July YouTube has taken down over 58 million YouTube videos that violate their Community Guidelines. In my recent article about Mumkey Jones, I go into how vague these rules are. No one really knows the specifics of the Community Guidelines. Until the beginning of December or late November, there has not been a huge amount of complaints on the matter. YouTube says on their official blog that they used a combination of the algorithm and manual review to remove videos and terminate channels that are dedicated to posting content that violates their CG. Sure that sounds great on the surface but they also linked to their “Transparency Report”. I have a few issues and concerns with it that I’d like to bring up.
Transparency Report: Intro
“Flags can come from our automated flagging systems, from members of the Trusted Flagger Program (NGO’s government agencies, and individuals) or from users in the border of the YouTube community.” Let me break this down, the Trusted Flagger Program requires all who get in to undergo a course by YouTube’s security team. They do not have to be lawyers or know anything about YouTube. The only requirement to be in is to attend the class. An NGO is a non-government organization. These are nonprofit organizations that receive funding from the government. Next on the list is government agencies. Which government? Specifically the US, or any government? Which agencies? Why do governments have a say in what should be on YouTube? The other type of Trusted Flagger is “individual”. Does it get any vaguer than that? Then the last one that can flag is “users in the border of the YouTube community.” So much for YouTube’s efforts to be “more transparent”.
Transparency Report: Removed Channels by the Numbers
YouTube mentions here that in Q3 2018, that 50.2 million videos were removed due to channel level suspension. That’s a majority of the 58 million that was removed. Most of it was not due to individual videos but whole channels being taken down. 1,667,587 channels removed. That averages out at about 30 videos per channel if we’re pretending non-serious spam accounts don’t exist. That means most of these channels likely had a significant amount of videos. How many of these channels being removed were wrong that resulted in people losing their jobs? I don’t doubt there is a lot of spam accounts, but they usually don’t care that much about their channel to upload a lot of videos.
Transparency Report: Videos Removed by Source of First Detection
This could be viewed one of two ways. First is you could say the algorithm is so good that it’s finding so many videos that humans could not. Secondly, you could say that this is a significant amount of videos that are missed and should lead to suspicion that perhaps the algorithm is flagging videos that do not need to be flagged. I think YouTube has actually considered the second but made the algorithm worse. This chart is only up to September 2018 and does not feature October to now. This is how much that was being flagged before the biggest creators noticed that videos were being taken down unfairly. I want to see what the chart and the numbers look like now.
The rest of the report includes a lot of repetition and then goes into the removal of comments which I mentioned before. YouTube is continuing not to listen to their creators and continuing this perpetual anti-transparency. In a video, PewDiePie comments on why he thinks this could be happening at the core. Phillip De Franko has not reported on this mass deletion. Then again, YouTube is funding him and giving him preferential treatment. So it’s not a surprise. Check YouTube’s blog for more information on that one.