YouTube Versus YouTubers over 'Ad-friendly' Videos Policy

Alex Spencer

YouTube Phillip DeFranco

A clip from DeFranco's video on YouTube's advertiser-friendly policy

YouTube is facing a backlash from some of its biggest stars, after sending out emails notifying them of a policy that doesn't let creators monetise content that isn't considered 'advertiser-friendly'.

The policy in question removes ads from videos containing sexually suggestive or violent content, using inappropriate language, promoting drugs or addressing 'controversial or sensitive subjects and events ... even if graphic imagery is not shown' for brand safety reasons – thus cutting off any revenue for the so-called 'YouTubers' who post them.

Earlier this week, prominent YouTube Philip DeFranco posted a video entitled 'YouTube Is Shutting Down My Channel and I'm Not Sure What To Do' after seeing one of these warnings. DeFranco claimed the move was a form of 'censorship', contributing to a swell of controversy among YouTubers on Twitter.

Hank Green, co-founder of the Vlogbrothers channel, tweeted two examples of videos that had fallen foul of these rules, which show the breadth of content being targeted. 'Vegetables that look like Penises' is probably a safe bet, but 'Zaatari: Thoughts from a Refugee Camp' – which, like DeFranco's offending video, falls under the 'controversial or sensitive subjects' banner – is a lot less clear-cut.

It's worth noting, though, that according to Green YouTube has since reinstated monetisation to the Zaatari video after "we called them on it", suggesting that its manual appeals process is more appreciative of these kinds of grey areas.

Also, and perhaps more importantly, the policy isn't actually anything new. According to Forbes, the one change YouTube has made is to improve its the notification process, highlighting videos that have been deemed not advertiser-friendly in its video manager and letting the creator know via email, and making it easier to appeal the decision.

Ironically, it seems that opening the process up to YouTubers is exactly what has triggered this controversy.