YouTube Apologizes and Reverses Deverification Crisis After Backlash

After intense backlash from creators and users alike, YouTube is almost completely backtracking on the strict reforms of its verification system which would have actually done more harm to the process than help, as explained in our previous coverage on the policies. YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki has since apologized for the community anxiety that followed.

According to a new company blog post from YouTube product manager Jonathan McPhie, every YouTuber who was warned on impending deverification will automatically keep their status without the need for a case appeal and the platform will continue to accept new verification applications under their current standard of reaching 100,000 subscribers, at least until their new standards are reached by late October. As found by Social Blade, more than 24,000 channels have currently reached that threshold.

“To our creators and users — I’m sorry for the frustration and hurt that we caused with our new approach to verification,” Wojcicki tweeted on Friday. “While trying to make improvements, we missed the mark. As I write this, we’re working to address your concerns [and] we’ll have more updates soon.” As the blog suggests, the only withstanding change is that YouTube will continue to verify a channel’s authenticity and force users to adapt to its “complex ecosystem” as the result of Google’s monopoly status — holding a 73% market share of all online video content with over 2–3 billion users across all their entities

If YouTube continued with their original plan, users would have to go out of their way through an overly complicated and fame-biased appeals process to receive verification status — which amounts to meaningful prioritization within the search algorithms and a meaningless tick against their channel name (which has since changed to a grey swipe). When users went into the appeals process, they were faced with providing their own channel URL, the channel URLs of every single person with a similar name (despite providing only a single link bar), the disclosure of other social media accounts and direct mentions of the user and the channel in the media.

There were self-evident problems with bureaucratic redundancy (being forced onto 24,000 previously protected accounts), unrelated big brother data disclosures, bias towards celebrities, brands and subjects of the media over small guy nominal users, careless processing errors over how information is recorded, needless market hysteria and the whole affair coming across as a legal trick just to avoid platform-side responsibility. For a corporation of such centralized power, it was just ironic for YouTube to favor a decentralized approach which just so happened to favor their interests.

These new changes, where channels will only need to have 100,000 subscribers and be deemed authentic by YouTube’s own judgment, signal a commitment to reform the eco-system despite little trust from the community and its inherent flaws from the jump. Thanks to 2017 and 2018 findings from Business Insider’s Digital Trust surveys, only 4% of respondents found YouTube trustworthy for participation, safety and use for consumption instead of sharing, “making it by far the least chosen option” among the other ranking big tech giants. As you can imagine, a system based on trust where is none quite telling of how the new system was perceived.

The perfect showcase of YouTube’s administrative failure was Laci Green, the controversial feminist with over a million subscribers, who was accidentally caught by YouTube’s AI algorithms and human admins for somehow impersonating herself. They permanently removed her verification and her entire channel made in 2014 despite no community guidelines strikes against her name and a complex appeals process, only reversed after thousands of users contacted their team through entirely different social media sites like Twitter. Assuming Green was just an average user, this case would have fallen between the hundreds of thousands of cracks littered through the system.

YouTube, when presented with the facts of its system hurting consumers large and small, is caught on a double-edged sword by its own doing. We’ve acknowledged when the platform has offered nice reforms like their creator assistance through hiring political consultants and a newly simplified video reply option being tested for appeals, but the platform has yet to prove whether anti-trust action, keeping YouTube small, accountable and economically fair, is beyond discussion. Arguments of centralized efficiency and financial growth mean little if centralised markets leave the consumer behind, whether through neglect, banishment or active predatory behavior.

American lawmakers, gearing up for the 50-state anti-trust probe against Google later this year, will see whether these arguments carry weight beyond just the scope of ads and data. “Google dominates all aspects of advertising on the internet and searching on the internet,” argued Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton from Texas, reading a joint-statement outside the Supreme Court “They dominate the buyer side, the seller side, the auction side, and the video side with YouTube. We will go wherever the facts lead, but will issue top-to-bottom scrutiny of its sprawling business beyond just ads.” If so, Google and YouTube better fix its identity crisis before the government has broken its relationship in two.

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