If you’ve jumped onto YouTube, or basically any social network today, you’ve probably heard something about YouTube’s “new” monetization rules and how they are “the death of YouTube.” So without freaking out about it, let’s see what’s going on here…

What Are These “New” Guidelines?

The first thing to look at is what people are actually complaining about. Let’s start with a section within YouTube’s community guidelines which lists out several different factors (seen below) that, if found within a video, could result in that video being marked as “considered inappropriate for advertising.”

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

After reading that list, you’ll probably notice that there are hundreds of videos that you’ve watched that hit at least something on the list, and that’s to say nothing regarding the hundreds of thousands of videos on YouTube that include this type of content.

So what’s the penalty for violating? Demonetization of that video. If YouTube considers a video inappropriate for advertising, it will stop serving ads alongside it, which is a big deal for creators of all sizes, and even more so for those who live off of it.

Some of these rules do make sense, at least to a certain extent, but others are just a bit ridiculous. For example, “Controversial or sensitive subjects and events, including subjects related to war, political conflicts, natural disasters and tragedies, even if graphic imagery is not shown.” This is the one I have the biggest problem with. I could understand considering this type of content “not advertiser-friendly” if something extremely graphic was shown, but just talking about it? That’s a little insane. And to some extent, something being “controversial” is completely subjective.

Inappropriate language is also just a bit odd considering the state of the internet. While I’m definitely not one to curse inappropriately (and actually appreciate videos more when the creators don’t), this rule basically makes 85% of content (or whatever number — I totally made that one up) on YouTube fair game to be demonetized.

This Isn’t Actually New

The biggest thing to note regarding all of this is that this has been happening for a while. In a statement to Phillip DeFranco, YouTube revealed that it has been doing this for quite some time, but, apparently, no one ever noticed.


While our policy of demonetizing videos due to advertiser-friendly concerns hasn’t changed, we’ve recently improved the notification and appeal process to ensure better communication.

So in the past, YouTube would demonetize a video, but creators simply wouldn’t know until they looked further into their earnings to find out that certain videos had made much less than expected.

The thing that’s changed here isn’t that YouTube is demonetizing videos, but rather that it is finally making it obvious for creators (as seen in a tweet from YouTube user Melanie Murphy). This is great, especially considering YouTube is allowing users to quickly appeal their videos to get ads reinstated. This, of course, is assuming that the video doesn’t actually break one of the guidelines. The problem here is that if a video was previously demonetized, the creator just missed on all of the money they could have made if it had remained monetized, even if they successfully appeal the decision.

Even more concerning, YouTube is being broad and inconsistent with what it considers does and does not break guidelines. Some videos are being demonetized for breaking guidelines, but others are not, even though they have content that would also break guidelines. In other cases videos are being demonetized, but not for any clear reason. Once again I’ll cite Melanie Murphy. One of her videos regarding acne has nothing that violates YouTube’s guidelines, so she assumes that it may have been due to the thumbnail.

I Really Think YouTube Is Right To Do This, It Just Might Have Gone About It The Wrong Way

Really, this is all a mess. Some may argue that by demonetizing videos YouTube is trying to censor creators, but I disagree. As Phillip DeFranco says in his video, YouTube is a business, and just like the creators hosted on it, it makes money through ads. So if creators are making videos that YouTube advertisers don’t like, then YouTube completely has the right to remove those ads, and honestly, it should.

To illustrate this a little bit, let’s talk about another situation that parallels this in a way. Recently, Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte and 3 of his teammates claimed that they had been robbed at gunpoint in Rio. Upon further investigation, it was revealed that this was all a big lie, made to cover up the fact that the trio had gotten drunk and damaged a gas station. Following those events, four of Lochte’s major sponsors cut ties with the swimmer, no longer sponsoring him. Why? The answer is clear, they didn’t appreciate the negative publicity he was receiving, and didn’t want to get tied up in it. But what those advertisers did was in their rights. And, in my opinion, justified.

We’ve seen this in similar situations before as well with other athletes that illegally took performance enhancing drugs and more. Sponsors just don’t want to be involved with topics of controversy.

The same applies to YouTubers. YouTube ads are not free; companies pay for them. So if those companies see their ads alongside content from a creator who says or shows something that the company doesn’t want to be associated with, that company may decide to pull their ads from YouTube and go with a “safer” form of advertising. In that scenario, it’s not just the creator with questionable content who loses out, YouTube does too, and so do the thousands of other creators who have that same ad shown alongside their video.

There’s no solution to this that will please everyone, and it’s easy to argue that YouTube is assuming the “worst-case scenario” with this rule, but YouTube is allowed to make that choice. Considering the noise creators are making regarding this rule, it’s entirely possible that YouTube may refine the process or ditch it entirely, but that’s up to them, not the content creators.

What do you think?

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About the Author

Ben Schoon

Ben is a writer and video producer for 9to5Google.

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