YouTube recently updated their terms of service, and many people are not happy about the changes made to the largest video-sharing website in the world.
YouTube upset users Aug. 31 when they announced that videos depicting violence, hard language or other taboo subjects would be receiving less advertisements. It will now be more difficult for YouTubers to receive advertisment revenue from these types of videos.
Since YouTube brought forward this information, YouTubers who depended on the advertisments might find it difficult to continue gaining revenue depending on the content of their videos.
The guidelines were always in place within YouTube’s terms of service, but they were buried inside making it difficult for people to realize the effect it would have on their videos.
The situation challenges the ideal of one continuing to say what they want and still receiving payment for it.
Lecture Capture Specialist Kaitlin Hodgdon thought that what YouTube did was a positive thing, as it made its rules clearer so that people would be aware of the way that things are on YouTube.
“By making [the terms of service] more readily available to their users, there is a certain level of transparency,” Hodgdon said. “They’re allowing their users, the people that upload to them, that use it to make a living, aware of the fact that their videos may not be allowed to be used in advertising.”
Hodgdon made reference to advertising as a whole, and to the fact that advertisers have to the right to choose which advertisment are available on specific videos, and how it would not make sense for an advertisement for children’s products to appear on a channel dedicated to talking about the conflict in Syria, for example.
“Google is the one that runs the advertising for YouTube, so they have every right to say that they don’t want to put money towards videos that advertisers may not agree with,” Hodgdon said. “So they’re kind of preemptively avoiding the conversation entirely and saying, ‘Okay, we have advertisers for Nickelodeon, we have advertisers from Mr. Clean,’ all of these places, why would they want to advertise on a video talking about something completely inappropriate, or something that doesn’t align with the company’s values.”
However, there are other people who feel that what YouTube did was a breach of free speech rights and that it goes against the idea of being able to say what you want. Sharon Docter of the Communication Department is one of these people.
“Speech is certainly limited, it’s not surprising to me, though,” Docter said. “Because any time advertisers get involved, then it’s sort of this push toward content that is not controversial.”
Docter talked about how this trend of making it harder for YouTubers to receive monetization for videos with stronger language has happened before.
“This is an example of a medium, once again, being taken over by corporate elites. Which means that you’re not going to get speech that’s controversial or fringe or edgy,” Docter said.
While this issue is polarizing, that does not mean that everyone is for or against this updating of the terms of service. People like Assistant Professor of Communication Aaron Heresco see both the good and bad sides of updating the terms of service, and look at what it means overall.
“So, as far as the social media response to these sort of changes are always interesting,” Heresco said. “If you look back at previous YouTube terms of service updates, they were met with very similar responses. There was one in 2005 that people said was the end of YouTube…and people said . . . everyone’s going to leave. YouTube’s fine.”
“When you couch it in terms of free speech, it seems like there’s this omnipresent governmental force…that’s telling you what you can and can’t say,” Heresco said. “Realistically, this is a market mechanism, this is advertisers saying…we don’t want to alienate our customers and associate our product with ideas that some might find offensive.”