YouTube, Censorship, and Capitalism


Earlier today, heads were on fire on social media, and YouTube ended up with fifteen minutes of infamy. Thousands of tweets went out about the demise of the streaming video giant, presumably because they decided to suddenly stop paying some high profile YouTubers for advertising on certain videos. This wasn’t a change in procedure, per se. The YouTubers just didn’t realize that ads weren’t running on certain videos because they weren’t told about it – they had to look to find it out. Now, YouTube has decided to be somewhat transparent, and let them know via email, or something.

So, this isn’t censorship in the strictest sense. It’s just a matter of YouTube not putting advertising on certain types of content, regardless who made it. Yes, this is annoying to YouTubers, along with the already fairly restrictive limits they place on videos that could be monetized. Seriously, one has to wonder if the advertisers really know where their ads aren’t appearing.

While it’s fair to guess that certain “wholesome” companies that want to keep a strictly family-friendly image might not want to advertise on controversial YouTube videos. However, there are many advertisers with commercials that actually contain the kind of material YouTube is keeping ads from appearing on in the first place. Yes, they are probably placing racy advertising on the relatively tame content of YouTubers who are currently complaining about not having ads on all their videos.

We’ve heard from the YouTubers. The real question is, why is YouTube doing “one size fits all” advertising? Sure, there’s the issue of corporate image, and the possibility that one group or another will get angry enough to call for a boycott of a product or company based on where an ad is shown. However, like the short-lived hashtag outrage over the issue of not placing ads on certain videos, those calls rarely last long, especially when it is just over advertising as opposed to something a company actually did wrong. But, the decision to place ads on controversial content shouldn’t be in the hands of the company serving the content. It should be in the hands of the advertisers. Shouldn’t they be the final decision makers on where their ads appear? They’re the ones paying for the placement. Since YouTube has established that they are capable of weeding out this content in the first place, instead of just pulling ads entirely, why aren’t they offering those placements to advertisers? Maybe they’re afraid of finding out the truth that is slowly sinking in across the internet. Controversial content is highly popular, and there is money to be made if a company chooses to advertise on it.

As for the protesters on social media, next time stick with asking why YouTube is making decisions for advertisers, instead of moaning about pseudo-censorship. YouTube doesn’t care what you think about their content guidelines, but advertisers certainly do care about getting their products and services in front of as many viewers as possible.