Casey Neistat is miffed. On October 2 he took to YouTube (the video above) to announce a GoFundMe fundraiser for the victims of the shooting in Las Vegas. He added that any ad revenue earned from the video’s 1.3 million and counting views would go directly to the victims as well. YouTube, citing a policy that all videos related to tragedy are demonetized, pulled ads from the video.
On October 5 Neistat took to Twitter to vent his frustration over the demonetization.
literally a video about charity.. where i state all Adsense is going to that charity.. youtube says NOT SUITABLE FOR ADVERTISERS pic.twitter.com/PBvHFNNuGy
— Casey Neistat (@CaseyNeistat) October 5, 2017
YouTube replied to the tweet, again clarifying its policy.
We ❤️ what you're doing to help, but no matter the intent, our policy is to not run ads on videos about tragedies.
— Team YouTube (@TeamYouTube) October 5, 2017
It’s simply the case of a vlogger who thinks he should be the exception to a rule because his heart is in the right place, and fellow vlogger Philip DeFranco seemed to agree. DeFranco, who felt the sting of the policy when it demonetized his video about Chris Brown’s standoff with police, noted that YouTube’s policy about monetizing tragedy appears to be inconsistent.
Namely, DeFranco claims YouTube was still serving ads on a Jimmy Kimmel clip also referencing the tragedy. A clip with more than six times the views of Neistat’s plea for donations.
Your response is bullshit. It's not true. People are tired this. Be better. pic.twitter.com/XWh6eMVQWG
— Philip DeFranco (@PhillyD) October 6, 2017
However as of 12pm ET October 6, there were no ads served on the video. Which likely means it has been demonetized too, because the policy YouTube has developed isn’t one where exceptions can or should be made. [Update: There now appear to be ads on the video.]
YouTube’s Advertising-friendly Content Guidelines make it very clear that if you’re talking about tragedies, your video can’t make money. Here’s the relevant passage from those guidelines:
Controversial issues and sensitive events: Video content that features or focuses on sensitive topics or events including, but not limited to, war, political conflicts, terrorism or extremism, death and tragedies, sexual abuse, even if graphic imagery is not shown, is generally not eligible for ads. For example, videos about recent tragedies, even if presented for news or documentary purposes, may not be eligible for advertising given the subject matter.
Look at any comment on a YouTube video or stumble across a racist’s conspiracy theory channel, and you know that YouTube is full of awful, vile people. YouTube has been trying to cut down on the awful it gives a platform too. Sometimes it screws it up — like when it started hiding LGBT content when it meant to hide porn. Other times, as when it started quarantining extremists videos, it does a decent job!
YouTube’s policy of demonetizing certain videos is just another effort to curtail bad content. In the case of demonetizing videos related to tragedies YouTube is trying to stop vloggers attempting to make a name (and a buck) by pushing incendiary ideas related to those tragedies. Now, they still get the views and subscriptions, but they don’t get the cash. It’s unfortunate for folks with good intentions like Neistat, but it serves the greater good.
Update 4:30pm EST
Following this article’s publication Neistat reached out with more information.
He noted he was not asking for special attention, but was frustrated by the inconsistencies of the policy. “The issue, raised by me and furthered by Phil, is the inconsistency YT has in dealing with this nuanced matter.”
He pointed to the Kimmel video as an example of the inconsistency. While we noted there was no ad on that video, the ads have since returned and can also be found on other videos from larger YouTube accounts, like this one from The Late Late Show with James Corden. Both Corden and Kimmel have significantly more followers than Neistat. Neistat has 7.9 million subscribers, Kimmel has 10 million subscribers, and Corden has 12 million.
We’ve reached out to Google about why these videos, which appear to be inconsistent with its monetisation policies, now have ads.
Neistat also noted that after the demonetization of the video he provided a video update on his fundraiser which was demonetized and then manually approved by YouTube. A screenshot, courtesy of Neistat, is below.
Image: Casey Neistat
Neistat also disputed the characterization of the headline of this article.
I also think language like ‘Casey got pissed’ is a reach at best. I tweeted twice, fairly objective tweets referring to the situation. Pissed is not what I am. YouTube’s inconsistency with monetisation makes the platform confusing for those who make a living from it. They do a terribly job communicating these policies and a wildly inconsistent job enforcing them. The outcry from my tweet largely reflects that broad frustration by the community.