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Nerd City & Other Creators Call Out YouTube Bots for Demonetizing LGBTQ+ Content

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  • A group of YouTubers said they have worked since June to compile evidence that certain words or phrases within video titles lead to automatic demonetization by the platform’s machine learning program.
  • As a result, those YouTubers also claim the platform’s bots are routinely demonetizing LGBTQ+ content.
  • A day after the videos documenting this evidence were posted, YouTube directly responded to them and said that “the right teams are reviewing your concerns in detail,” also promising to follow up on the claims.

YouTubers Create Monetization/Demonetization Word List

In a series of videos released Sunday, a group of YouTubers detailed 15,000 keywords that they tested against YouTube bots and claimed many of those words—including some LGBTQ+ terms—lead to automatic demonetization.

Particularly, the project looks at those keywords and determines whether or not each caused a video to be demonetized when used in the title of a video. The research, which was conducted from June to July, was a collaboration between creators Nerd City, YouTube Analyzed(who does not work for YouTube), and Sealow. 

“Robot law enforcement on YouTube just resulted in two years of gay people being treated like it’s the 1300’s,” Nerd City said in his video.

The report, published as a Google spreadsheet, classifies words in one of two categories: green meaning monetized and yellow meaning demonetized. However, YouTube Analyzed said the way monetization is decided is more like a 0-1 scale. 

Thus, certain words near the middle of that scale might be green one day and yellow the next. To provide context, he placed an asterisk next to words that yielded mixed results.

To create the list, they uploaded two-second clips they said had no demonetizable audio or video. Then, they experimented with keywords, replacing demonetized words with “happy” or “friend” to see it if that would monetize the video.

As such, they found a grab bag of results. For example, “antivaxx” sometimes resulted in demonetization, but never “antivax” or “anti-vaxxer.” 

Additionally, “North Carolina” was demonetizable but not “North Korea.” YouTube Analyzed actually explained this by saying that if a word has too much negative association with it, the bot might be prone to flagging the word. He argued “North Carolina” might have been flagged because news surrounding transgender bathroom laws made headlines in July as he was compiling the list. 

Other words like “restaurant,” “you,” “sunglasses,” “photos,” “profit,” and even “Shrek” reportedly caused their videos to get demonetized. 

While more expected terms like slurs, cuss words, and other words like “Hitler” were also flagged, other controversial words like “incel” and phrases like “how to murder” weren’t demonetized. YouTube Analyzed suggests, unlike the “North Carolina” example, if the bots haven’t seen a word or phrase used enough, they might not catch it.

LGBTQ+ Video Demonetization

The creators also found that common LGBTQ+ terminology tended to be demonetized, and some media outlets have called this project the most conclusive evidence that YouTube is demonetizing LGBTQ+ videos.

Again, however, the system yielded highly variable results. For example, “gay” was demonetizable, but YouTube Analyzed noted the word is context-sensitive. The term “lesbian” was sometimes green but “lesbians” was always yellow. Also, “transgender” was monetizable but not always “trans.”

Additionally, the word “homophobia” was ad-friendly, but not “homosexual,” while terms like “straight” and “heterosexual” were both always green.

Some of the titles they tried included “Lesbian princess” andKids Explain Gay Marriage,” a reference to a Jimmy Kimmel skit posted on YouTube. Both were demonetized but later monetized when replacing “lesbian” and “gay” with “happy.”

As to why these videos are being demonetized, Sealow posits a couple of possible reasons. The first is similar to the “North Carolina” example where, politics and negative press could influence certain words. In the case of LGBTQ+ content, bots could interpret certain terms negatively if they are regulating a high number of homophobic or hateful content.

Sealow also worries that if videos with words like “gay” are manually demonetized by people with biases, then bots will also develop the tendency to demonetize those videos regardless of the content.

According to Nerd City, YouTube is possibly outsourcing some 10,000 workers from a company called Lionbridge, which employs people from a number of countries that have anti-LGBTQ+ laws, including Somalia, Afghanistan, and Indonesia. 

He then asks: if there’s no standardized policy in place for LGBTQ+ content could reviewers keep a video demonetized based on their own bias?

It is unclear how many workers—if any—are from those countries or if such a bias is actually being taken into account; however, former workers with Lionsbridge have reportedly complained of unclear guidelines. 

Past Accusations Against LGBTQ+ Creators

Some YouTubers like Petty Paige have now resorted to censoring words like trans and homosexual to stay monetized, and a wide range of LGBTQ+ creators have called this trend an open secret.

In December, Mexican YouTuber Lusito Comunica asked YouTube Chief Product Officer Neal Mohan about this directly, saying three of his videos with LGBTQ+ titles were demonetized.

“I can just tell you categorically that there is no list of words or keywords or terms or anything like that that is going to go into our classifiers making an apriori decision on whether our videos are monetized or not,” Mohan said. 

“There’s nothing in terms of how our monetization algorithms work that should be based on any kind of predescribed or predetermined list,” he continued.

In his video, Sealow refutes that point, saying, “Given our testing results, it’s made clear that these comments are not accurate.” He notes that while the current situation for LGBTQ+ may be improved from two years ago, most would still call it unacceptable.

He also said he finds Mohan’s comments troubling because as CPO, Mohan has the power to fix this problem.

Later, in August, Alfie Deyes posed a similar question to YouTube’s CEO Susan Wojcicki. 

“We do not automatically demonetize LGBTQ content,” she said. Then, later adding, “There’s no policies that say if you put certain words in the title that that will be demonetized.” 

Deyes then reiterated his question, asking if any words specifically from the LGBTQ+ are flagged, to which she says, “There shouldn’t be.”

Nerd City then focused on the word “policy” in his video, saying Wojcicki lied by omission. 

“It’s sneaky language from a very smart woman who talks to a lot of lawyers,” he said. “There’s no policy to demonetize gay words, but there is a protocol where bots are doing exactly that.”

Also in August, a group of YouTubers sued the platform and claimed among other things, that YouTube is demonetizing their content. 

In 2018, YouTube took steps to expand its reviewing process, adding those previously-mentioned 10,000 workers to combat what Wojcicki called bad actors,”or people who attempt to exploit the platform’s monetization system. Those “bad actors” are actually part of why YouTube says it hasn’t released its algorithm data.

YouTube’s Mystery Algorithm

The report represents an attempt to better warn creators about why their videos may be demonetized, but demonetization involves other factors, as well. As they continue to attempt to learn more about the mysterious algorithm, that list changes every day. 

Because of that, all of them note the information they presented is not necessarily complete. Nerd City has argued that YouTube should publish details on how its algorithm works, saying more openness could allow creators to make more money because they would then be able to see what does and does not get monetized.

He also deconstructs the “bad actors” argument, saying people would just report misleading content anyway.

Notably, the FairTube Campaign is urging YouTube to at least send creators a reason why their specific videos were demonetized, that way they can then learn and take steps to make sure future videos are ad-friendly.

YouTube Responds

Monday, the YouTube Team Twitter account respond to this series of videos, saying, “Wanted to let you know that we’ve watched your video and the right teams are reviewing your concerns in detail. We want to make sure that we give you some clear answers, so we’ll follow back up when the teams have been able to take a good, hard look.”

Later, a YouTube spokesperson then released a statement saying there is no list of words that deem a video not ad-friendly. 

“We’re proud of the incredible LGBTQ+ voices on our platform and take concerns like these very seriously,” the spokesperson said. “We do not have a list of LGBTQ+ related words that trigger demonetization and we are constantly evaluating our systems to help ensure that they are reflecting our policies without unfair bias.”

That spokesperson also said YouTube tests samples of LGBTQ+ content when there are new monetization classifers to make sure LGBTQ+ videos aren’t more likely to be demonetized.

See what others are saying: (The Verge) (INSIDER) (Mashable)

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The US is “Looking at” a Potential TikTok Ban, Pompeo Says as the Company Pulls Out of Hong Kong

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  • Early Monday, TikTok announced that it would be leaving the Hong Kong market over fears regarding China’s new national security law, which would require the company to hand over user data.
  • Later in the day, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News that the U.S. is “looking at” banning Chinese social media apps, including TikTok.
  • The Chinese-owned app has long been accused of giving data to the Chinese Communist Party, which it has repeatedly denied.
  • If put in place, an American ban would just be the latest national-restriction against TikTok. India banned the app on July 1 over similar fears that it gave away user data to Chinese authorities.

Could TikTok Face an American Ban?

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News Monday night that the United States was “looking at” banning Chinese social media apps, including the popular video-sharing app TikTok.

When speaking to host Laura Ingraham about potential plans to restrict the app, Pompeo said, “We’re taking this very seriously, but we’re certainly looking at it. We’ve worked on this very issue for a long time.”

“With respect to Chinese apps on people’s cellphones, I can assure you the United States will get this one right too,” he added.

Despite his claims, there haven’t been any concrete efforts made public yet. Still, when asked if he’d recommend for people to download TikTok, the Secretary of State replied, “Only if you want your private information in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.”

TikTok has adamantly claimed that despite its parent company ByteDance being based in China, TikTok itself isn’t controlled by the Chinese Communist Party, nor does it have deep ties with the party.

The app claims that the executives and managers who actually make decisions about its business and make its content rules are all outside of China. The company also states that Chinese authorities have no say in what is and isn’t allowed on the app, and lastly, that user data isn’t stored in China.

American authorities doubt these claims, as the company is owned by ByteDance, which is based in China and like most large Chinese companies, is thought to have close ties to the ruling Communist Party. Adding to the fuel that TikTok complies with Chinese authorities is the fact that ByteDance also owns its sister company, Douyin, which is essentially a Chinese version of TikTok.

A U.S. ban would be a massive loss for the company, which is home to some of its biggest creators. The app has also faced hurdles in India, where a ban went into effect on July 1 that blocked TikTok and 58 other Chinese apps. The nation of over 1 billion is among its largest markets.

Australia has also floated the idea of banning the platform over concerns it inappropriately shares data with the Chinese government.

Pulling Out of Hong Kong

Aside from promising that it isn’t controlled by Chinese authorities, TikTok has also made recent moves to distance itself from the country. Hours before Pompeo spoke to Fox News, TikTok announced that it would be pulling out of the Hong Kong market over fears about a sweeping national security law imposed on the city by China on June 29.

According to TikTok, the app would be inoperable within Hong Kong in a few days. Additionally, it wouldn’t process data requests from China or Hong Kong police, although some current residents already say they can’t download the app.

Hong Kong authorities used the new national security law to release strict new rules regarding online posts. If police suspect an “electronic message” endangers “national security,” they can ask the publisher, platform, host, or network provider to remove or restrict access to it. Those who publish messages and don’t comply face a $100,000 fine and upwards of six months in jail.

Users who actually make the posts face a similar fine and up to a year in jail.

According to multiple reports, the rules explicitly allow authorities to jail employees at internet companies that don’t reply, regardless if they’re based in Hong Kong or not. It should be noted that punishment would only be applicable if one was to actually travel to Hong Kong or China, as most nations wouldn’t comply with another country claiming extraterritorial authority.

However, it still puts companies in an awkward position; comply with Chinese authorities and face backlash for caving on free speech, or disregard the rules and potentially risk employee safety and losing market access.

It wasn’t just TikTok that responded to the new rules, other tech giants like Facebook, Google, and Twitter all said they would temporarily halt data requests from Hong Kong authorities as they decide what to do in the long run. All three had spokespeople and statements that were remarkably similar.

A Facebook spokesperson told Reuters, “We are pausing the review of government requests for user data from Hong Kong pending further assessment of the National Security Law, including formal human rights due diligence and consultations with international human rights experts.”

“We believe freedom of expression is a fundamental human right and support the right of people to express themselves without fear for their safety or other repercussions,” the statement continued.

Even though at face value it may seem like a hollow gesture, considering the fact that these companies are banned in China, it’s actually a big risk to a massive revenue stream. All three of those companies have major advertiser programs in China.

While they debate whether to comply with the law or not, it’s interesting to note that TikTok went further than the rest by actually pulling services out of the city. That might be because Hong Kong wasn’t a huge market for the company.

It consistently lost them money and only about 150,000 Hong Kongers used the app. Another facet that may limit the impact of “losing” Hong Kong is that TikTok’s sister app, Douyin, is still usable and popular in Hong Kong, despite not officially being available in the city.

See what others are saying: (Wall Street Journal) (The New York Times) (CNN)

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“The Rock” Surpasses Kylie Jenner as Highest-Paid Star on Instagram

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  • After coming in at No. 6 last year, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has now skyrocketed to the top of Hopper HQ’s Instagram Rich List, with it estimating that he earns $1,015,00 per sponsored post.
  • Kylie Jenner, who he dethroned, now sits at No. 2, charging $986,000 per post.
  • Kim Kardashian West ranked No. 4 with $858,000, just a day after it was revealed that she sold 20% of KKW Beauty to Coty Inc. The deal values KKW Beauty at $1 billion and makes her net worth around $900 million.
  • TikTok stars Charlie D’Amelio and Addison Rae also captured attention for making it into the top 10 highest paid per post in the Lifestyle category, after rising to fame in under a year. 

Instagram’s Highest-Paid Users Revealed 

Kylie Jenner was officially dethroned by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as the highest-paid person on Instagram, according to Hopper HQ’s fourth annual “Instagram Rich List.” 

Hopper HQ, the social media planning tool behind the list, announced its new rankings Tuesday, which estimates how much high profile figures charge per sponsored post. According to the company, it uses “publically and privately available data to create the most accurate list possible.”

Last year, Jenner topped the company’s list, with it estimating that she earned $1,266,000 per sponsored post. At the time, Johnson took the No. 6 spot, raking in about $882,000 for each of his.

Since then, Johnson’s Instagram earning have jumped by 15%, helping him snatch the No. 1 slot with an estimated $1,015,00 per sponsored post. Jenner on the other hand, dropped by 22%, earning her the No. 2 title with $986,000 each.   

Jenner’s new ranking comes just a month after Forbes stripped her of her billionaire title when it accused her of exaggerating her cosmetic company’s earning. At the time, Jenner called the claims “inaccurate” and “unproven,” while her representatives said that neither she nor anyone from her team falsified tax returns or lied to claim the title. 

But even without the billionaire status, Jenner is still insanely wealthy. Forbes estimated her net worth at $900 million and just a few days after publishing its exposé, it ranked her as the highest-paid celebrity with an estimated $590 million in earnings over the last year. 

As far as the “Instagram Rich List” goes, celebrities that follow Jenner include Cristiano Ronaldo, Kim Kardashian West, Ariana Grande, Selena Gomez, Beyonce Knowles, Justin Bieber, and Taylor Swift, to name a few.

Is Kim Kardashian a Billionaire? 

Kardashian West is another standout with her No. 4 ranking, charging an estimated $858,000 per post. That’s because the ranking comes just a day after reports that she sold a stake in her cosmetic brand, KKW Beauty, to Coty Inc for $200 million.

Last year, her youngest sister made headlines for striking a huge deal with the beauty brand, selling 51% of Kylie Cosmetics for $600 million in a deal that valued the company at $1.2 billion. 

But Kardashian West’s deal is a bit different. She only sold off a 20% stake in her business, leaving her with 72% and her mother, Kris Jenner, with 8%. According to Coty, she will remain responsible for creative efforts while Coty will focus on expanding product development outside the realm of color cosmetics.

Following the news, Kanye West congratulated his wife for “officially becoming a billionaire” with a bizarre photo of what appeared to be vegetables and flowers. 

However, as Forbes pointed out, this deal actually makes her net worth about $900 million and values KKW Beauty at $1 billion. 

Other Standouts on the 2020 Instagram Rich List 

Aside from “The Rock” and the Kardashian-Jenner rankings, there were some other notable standouts on Hopper HQ’s list.

In the beauty category, Huda Kattan of Huda Beauty made the top of the list with an estimated $91,800 per post. Far behind at No. 2 and 3 were beauty influencers James Charles and Jeffree Star, who charge an estimated $38,400 and $32,700 per sponsored post, respectively. 

In fashion, model Bella Hadid ranked No.1 with an estimated $91,900 per post, with Emily Ratajkowski following at No. 2 with $78,300. 

In sports, Cristiano Ronaldo maintained his top spot with $889,000 per paid post, followed by other huge names in soccer like Neymar Jr., Lionel Messi, and David Beckham. NBA star Lebron James ranked No. 5 with an estimated $307,000 for each of his.

But perhaps some of the most interesting numbers came from the Lifestyle category, which gave insight into the potential earnings of some popular influencers. 

Lele Pons ended up at the top of the list with an estimated $142,80 per sponsored post. She was followed by Sommer Ray, Zach King, and Cameron Dallas.

Others who made the top ten that probably won’t come as a surprise are longtime YouTuber Felix Kjellberg, also known as Pewdiepie, who came in at No. 5 with $72,500 and Viner turned YouTuber David Dobrik who ranked No. 7 with an estimated $69,900 per sponsored post. 

But some newcomers to the digital space that broke the top ten in this category are TikTokers 16-year-old Charli D’Amelio and 19-year-old Addison Rae Easterling. D’Amelio actually ranked above Dobrik at No. 6 with an estimated $71,200 per post. Easterling ranked just below him at No. 8 with $69,600 each. 

The Paul brothers then finish up the top ten with Logan at No. 9 and Jake at No. 10. However, the success of the two TikTok stars is arguably the most impressive considering how quickly they’ve exploded to popularity and expanded onto other sites. 

Easterling, for instance, only joined TikTok in July 2019 and is the second most followed person on the app with 48.2 million followers. Meanwhile, D’Amilio is the most followed person on the app with 66.9 million followers, and she joined in June of 2019.

See what others are saying: (Forbes) (LAD Bible) (Yahoo Lifestyle)

Correction: This story has been updated with the correct spelling of Cristiano Ronaldo’s name.

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Breaking Down Shane Dawson’s History of Offensive and Inappropriate Content

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  • YouTuber Shane Dawson is facing backlash for racist and offensive jokes he has made throughout his career, including instances where he used black or brownface and said the n-word.
  • Many also took issue with his jokes about pedophilia, including one where he pretends to masturbate in front of a poster of 11-year-old Willow Smith and another where he appears to joke that pedophilia is a fetish.
  • Over the past few years, he has apologized for some of these instances and for doing blackface, but in a recent video Friday, he acknowledged that this was not enough, and apologized once more.
  • He is still facing other heat from the beauty community, as some fans think he used the industry for a profit, only to later slander the people in it.

Shane’s Past Racist and Inappropriate Jokes

Over the past several days, controversies surrounding YouTuber Shane Dawson have spread across the Internet, prompting Dawson to issue an apology. But with so much being thrown around, what exactly are people accusing him of?

Well, many are bringing up racist and inappropriate jokes he has made in his past. In several instances, internet users brought up footage of him doing black and brownface or using the n-word. In 2014, Dawson apologized for using blackface, claiming he did not know what it meant. 

“I made a mistake. And I should not have done it,” he said. “I should not have put makeup on my face to make myself look Black it was stupid.” 

Others brought up footage of him saying predatory things about children. One clip shows him asking a young fan to twerk for him during a webchat with him and his mother.

In soundbites from a 2013 podcast, he can be heard making jokes about pedophilia. 

“People have foot fetishes, people have fetishes about everything. Fine. Everybody do your thing. So why is it that when somebody looks at, googles, naked baby on google and jerks off to it, they can get arrested?” he asked after calling a six-year-old “sexy.”.

“Here’s the worst part of it, I actually went to google like, I want to see, I just wanted to see, let me pretend like I’m a pedophile for a sec,” he added. “So I typed in naked baby, first of all they were sexy.” 

However, back in 2018, he said those jokes were taken out of context and that he was actually saying pedophilia was disgusting. He also posted a YouTube video at the time that showed the unedited footage, where he does say that he does not “understand why anybody would be turned on by that.”

“I’m sorry that I used to make really shitty fucking jokes,” he said, adding that he made them for shock value and to get a rise out of his co-host.  

But more clips continued to resurface, including one were he is showing photos of his young fans in his merchandise, saying he would rape them. In another, he pretends to masturbate to a poster of Willow Smith, who was 11-years-old at the time. 

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Many also brought up clips of Dawson interacting with his tween cousin where he makes sexual jokes and asks her inappropriate questions.

Outrage at Shane’s Depiction of Beauty Community

Dawson’s Friday video addressed many of these clips, which he said he is sorry for. However, these off-color jokes are not the only reason he is in the hot seat right now. Many in the beauty community have slammed him for seemingly using the industry to make a profit.

Dawson recently made a statement announcing his exit from the beauty community. In that statement, he painted the community as a toxic bunch who live for drama, while standing by his friend and collaborator Jeffree Star, who many believe is perhaps one of the most toxic and dramatic beauty YouTubers.

Dawson has made two docuseries about Star. In the most recent one, the two collaborated on a palette together, which was restocked prior to him announcing his departure from this industry. Because of this, people thought Dawson was taking his money and running, all while insulting the beauty community, which he briefly infiltrated. 

YouTuber Samantha Ravndahl tweeted that if he thinks the whole community is toxic, he is “watching the wrong people.”

“Let’s just be clear, you didn’t do a beauty series. You highlighted the literal one person that has continually been the most toxic, harmful, racist, misogynistic, threatening individual in the community,” Ravndahl added in a video addressing Dawson.

She also explained that while many see the beauty industry as female-dominated, the higher ups, CEOs and top earners are often male, cis-gendered, white or white passing. This means that men tend to benefit from the community the most, but when the industry faces backlash, women are often the ones with a sullied reputation. 

Ravndahl then explained that she believes Dawson, along with Star, have benefited from being males in the beauty community. 

“I really suggest that you question whether or not you would be okay with the things that they say, that the things that they do, with the things that they have done in the past. If you’d be okay with those exact same things if they happened with a female influencer,” she said. “And I just, if you’re being honest with yourself, I highly doubt that the answer is yes, that you would be ok with it.” 

In the past, female influencers like Laura Lee faced immediate consequences for their indiscretions. Old racist tweets cost Lee brand partnerships and big deals. Fans note that Star and Dawson both have countless old videos and content with racist behavior, but have not seen harsh punishment for it. 

See what others are saying: (Washington Post) (Seventeen) (People)

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