Why YouTube's Demonetization Video Appeals System is Still Missing the Point

YouTube wants to simplify its appeals process for those banned from advertising. According to a new report from The Verge, the world’s largest online video platform has confirmed it’s running a test allowing select channels to submit behind the scenes videos to gain sympathy from the review team, a decision which is expected to roll out for its 1.8 billion other users if it’s proven successful. 

Under this newly proposed system, demonetized channels can at least send videos to the administrative teams explaining their “creative process” and arguing their case for ad reinstatement, according to a verified company email posted on the YouTube subreddit. A YouTube spokesperson revealed that once a video is published, an assessment will be made within seven business days to determine suitability, making no mention of due process tropes such as having an impartial overseer, a clear enforced charter, presentable counter-evidence, etc.

While this is a nice gesture towards appeals reform, the policy ignores the inherent problem with having a centralized corporate power with too much trust deciding over online market freedom. Fundamentally, the cases are left to the unaccountable judgment of one entity picking winners and losers over the digital public space, at a time when YouTube controls a staggering 73.39% of the market share and sustains almost 2 billion users every month, which is eerily close to monopolistic power. There’s simply no “moving to another platform” when YouTube is holding all the cards.

Even if their single judgment always turned up correct, an impossible standard, the principle of proper due process should apply, especially when there’s only one trading/governing body over the community. It’s fair to say this process is better than the status quo, waiting 30 days hoping for a judgment without so much as a simple rebuttal, but closed-doors kangaroo courts always get dicey in matters of conflicting interests, ignorance and anything that gets in the way of power.

When it’s a matter of genuine misunderstanding, where a joke gets lost in translation or copyright opportunities are stepping over fair use rights, the process allows for direct contact in a reasonable timespan to issue corrections. This, however, relies on the assumption the platform will play in good faith. When given the power, YouTube could just choose to play bad faith abuser, helping out their ideological allies or financial partners by disagreeing with the evidence and going with their own view. 

Whether it’s a state or business, a system this large can’t have justice as a choice, but as a moral obligation. A reform built on volunteerism can’t ensure this, though recognize a small victory for creators is still a victory nevertheless. 

“As someone who suffered a great deal with demonetization months ago (is fixed now), this is huge,” one creator wrote on the subreddit. “Major props for Youtube if they continue doing this. Ability to properly appeal in the form of a video and get a response back within seven days is so, so, so much better.” 

When discussing the fallout of #VoxApocalypse, where conservative provocateurs like Steven Crowder can just bully his fellow creators like Vox contributor Carlos Maza, which resulted in stochastic harassment via carelessly hateful rhetoric and susceptible audiences, it’s wrong to argue a case before establishing the system by which they should be judged. Even to the more censorious left, this problem is what allowed Crowder to monetize these tactics as his living in the first place. 

After all was said and done YouTube simply accepted Crowder’s case that it was a legitimate form of argumentation because, for all we know, they didn’t want to rock the boat and interrupt the steady flow of advertising dollars. There’s no one to answer to other than themselves. And while Crowder’s hostility towards the LGBTQ community is undeniable, that YouTube has the power to unilaterally decide whether his channel can go on interrupted or be completely purged on a whim is disturbing. 

The platform acts as though it’s small enough to draft simplified guidelines (which would suspend accounts like Crowder’s) and hope they can enforce them when they so choose. Crowder could just send his own video appealing to their economic insecurities, waging war on the platform as he did on Twitter during the scandal and we’re back to the argument of monopolies deciding what is justice based on unjust interests, where it’s either propping up hateful creators to lavish incomes or banishing people from wider online society (both luxuries and punishments too severe given their centralized status). This racket can only change when YouTube is either treated like the information utility it is or the decentralized competitive market place it pretends to be, forced to respect the rights and liberty of its users while reigning in the genuine abusers of its tools, and that requires a hard look in the mirror — exactly where YouTube keeps its blindspot, by design.

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