On YouTube, anyone can make a name for themselves with hard work, good ideas, and a little bit of luck. However, the site is changing its policies in a way that might mean the end of your favourite YouTubers.
Recently, the site updated their harassment and cyberbullying policy, defining harassment as “deliberately posting content in order to humiliate someone” and “making hurtful and negative comments/videos about another person,” among other statements.
While the prevention of cyberbullying is certainly a big issue and should be handled delicately, this vague terminology is not the way to go about it. Maybe I’m just a cynic, but this policy will do nothing but censor original content and dismantle a huge portion of the YouTube community.
Many of the biggest stars on the platform have made a living from videos criticizing public figures. For instance, the Fine Brothers, with over 14 million subscribers, create daily ‘reaction’ videos, such as “Kids react to Donald Trump,” or “Elders React to Kim Kardashian,” in which they film various groups reacting to videos of public figures. These videos certainly could fall under the new policy, and their creators could potentially face takedown notices should Trump or Kardashian be offended by them.
While no takedown notices have been filed against the Fine Brothers yet, up-and-coming YouTube personality RiceGum, with over 2.3 million subscribers, recently had a video of his taken down for supposed ‘copyright violation.’ The video in question was entitled “The Next Jacob Sartorius (GIRL VERSION),” in which the 19-year-old comedian criticized the Instagram account of Alabama Barker, the 10-year-old daughter of Blink-182’s Travis Barker.
In response, Travis Barker had the video removed for what he claimed were copyright violations, and blasted the YouTuber on Instagram, with a picture of RiceGum and the caption, “this lame is about to take the biggest fuckin L in history. […] Any leads on where this #pedafile [sic] lives please DM me.”
Whether or not you agree with RiceGum’s opinion isn’t the point. Instead, it’s that Barker claimed copyright violation where there was none and has threatened him personally — and for what? Saying what was on his mind?
The connection between this case and YouTube’s new harassment policies is that if the reported lawsuit sticks and Barker also files complaints against RiceGum for harassment under the new guidelines, or even claims he promoted hate speech against his daughter, it would make it all the easier for the YouTuber to be permanently removed from the site. An easy ‘three strikes’ against his account, and he’s out for good!
So, despite YouTube’s best efforts to promote a safe and happy environment for its users, the company is writing policies that hurt creators. YouTube has become as popular as it is because of original content: because of teenagers in their bedrooms armed with camcorders and something to say, because of cats doing adorable and hilarious cat things, and because of creatives who use it as an outlet for music, makeup tutorials, or video game “let’s plays.”
The moment we allow our voices to be squashed by larger, more powerful corporate media is the moment YouTube loses its heart.