When YouTuber ProZD responded to YouTube’s updated guidelines on profanity and violence, which included the rule that profanity cannot occur within the first 15 seconds, he waited until the 15-second mark to pass, then said, “That is the dumbest f*cking sh*t I’ve ever heard.”
Right when the new year started, YouTube implemented a new policy change. Under the social media platform’s newly updated advertiser-friendly content guidelines, videos with profanity or graphic violence in the first 15 seconds are instantly demonetized. Demonetization is a big deal, as it means a video loses the ability to earn advertising revenue. Basically, as a content creator putting out videos to make a living, your product becomes moot.
The new rules are pretty clear as you just need to not use any profanity whatsoever in the beginning, but they become a little muddy when talking about what YouTube calls “focal usage” of profanity throughout a video. The policy defines this as when a swear word is mentioned in every sentence, but the enforcement has been inconsistent.
In ProZD’s video, for example, the YouTuber swore a total of four times in a 48-second video. He purposely spaced his profanity out, saying five more sentences before swearing again, calling YouTube a “f*cking donkey.” Despite his care with the math, his video got demonetized.
RTGames, is a gaming YouTuber who also had a couple of his videos demonetized and age-restricted. In the videos YouTube deemed as not following the guidelines, RTGames didn’t swear in every sentence like the policy said. For example, in “Let’s Build a Lego Minecraft World,” RTGames didn’t swear until 4:14, almost a third of the way through the video. The next time he swore was 25 seconds later.
Creators complained that they were not told about the rules ahead of time, and now the rules are being applied retroactively.
YouTube has had a history of not communicating well with its creators, often implementing new changes without warning or announcement. Many YouTubers, like RGT 85 were oblivious to the fact that YouTube changed their guidelines, until they received emails letting them know videos of theirs would be demonetized or age-restricted.
At 1 a.m., right before RGT 85 was about to go to bed, his phone dinged. An email from YouTube. Turns out, his video, “The Most INSANE Nintendo Switch Ports Worth Playing!” was now age-restricted. Confused, but confident that it must’ve been a mistake, the YouTuber applied for an appeal. In three minutes, RGT 85 says, showing timestamps on emails he displayed on his YouTube channel, YouTube replied, saying they reviewed his appeal and the video, but that the restriction was not a misclick. Given that the video was 15 minutes long, he assumes it was not actually reviewed for violations during that three-minute window.
Under YouTube’s new guidelines on gaming, it states that graphic scenes are fine as long as it’s outside the first 15 seconds. In RGT 85’s video, violence did occur, but not until 0:23.
So, RGT 85 took this to Twitter, tagging @TeamYoutube, asking why his video got hit with an age restriction months after it was up. They replied, suggesting he read through their new policies on violent and graphic content.
“Policy changes. What policy changes? You didn’t send out an email to everyone. You didn’t put something on the front page saying “Hey! We’re changing some policies!””
Videos made years ago are getting demonetized for not following YouTube’s latest policy changes. Creators are essentially being punished for basing their content on the old policy, when the new one hadn’t even been implemented. “PSYCHO KID VS FRANCIS!!!” for example, was a video uploaded 6 years ago by boogie2988 that got limited.
In response to the many creator complaints, YouTube replied that they were “in the process of making some adjustments,” and that they would follow up shortly with the community as soon as they had more to share.
These new rules show that YouTube is trying to change their platform to be more kid-friendly and ad-friendly. However, the changes make some YouTubers question whether they can continue to rely on the platform for their livelihood, leaving them uncertain about their futures.
“Now I might have to consider leaving YouTube altogether,” RTGames said.