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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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Shane Dawson Says Hurtful Comments Are the Reason He Doesn’t Upload More

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  • Shane Dawson uploaded a video to his new YouTube channel dedicated to makeup videos and other “random” posts.
  • Shortly after his latest video went live, Dawson shared a comment someone left about his weight, saying that comments like these are what keep him from uploading more. 
  • After a flood of support, Dawson apologized for posting the screenshot and said he was taking a break from the internet.

Shane Glossin 

Long-time YouTuber Shane Dawson opened up on Wednesday about negative comments that make him hesitant to upload more content. 

As you probably already know, Dawson has a massively successful channel with over 23 million subscribers. And while fans love when he drops a new docuseries, he regularly hears complaints that he doesn’t upload enough. 

At some point during the process of his recent makeup collaboration with Jeffree Star Cosmetics, he was inspired to create a new channel, ShaneGlossin, which is named after a lip gloss included in his collection. Dawson does already have a second channel, Shane Dawson TV, though he hasn’t uploaded through that account in several years. 

In January, Dawson made his followers aware of the third account, calling it a low-pressure place to post makeup videos and other random content. 

Shane Tweets About Negative Comments

While his main channel has remained inactive over the past two months, Dawson has uploaded a few videos to his new channel, which currently sits at just over 3 million subscribers. On Wednesday, he uploaded a light-hearted video about his bedazzling obsession and shortly after the video went live, he shared a screenshot of a comment someone left under it.

The comment he shared read: “I love Shane but it’s a damn shame to watch him putting all this weight back on while everyone around him laughs and enables it.”

“Hey Shane why don’t u post more? Why don’t u upload more? Well… this 🙃,” Dawson wrote in the tweet that accompanied the screenshot. “You would think after 13 years on youtube comments wouldn’t get to me but damn… they still feel like the very first time haha.”

It’s no secret that for years, Dawson has been open about his weight insecurities, body image issues, and mental health struggles. After sharing the comment, fans quickly flooded him with messages of love and support. 

In a follow-up post, Dawson apologized for sharing the screenshot “Thanks for the nice tweets. I appreciate it a lot,” he wrote. “Sorry I got sensitive and posted that. I usually just ignore stuff but I’m just in a weird headspace lately :/ I think I’m gonna take a break from the internet for a bit. Thanks for being supportive and having my back.” 

While Dawson has been met with kindness from friends and fans, his post highlights the impact hate comments on social media can have on a person, no matter how big or small their following.

See what others are saying: (Dexerto) (Pop Buzz) (Distractify)

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Ninja Sparks Conversations About Dealing With Gaming Losses

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  • Ninja tweeted that the phrase “it’s just a game” signals a weak mindset and was critical of players who are not angry after a loss. 
  • Some saw it as a message about improvement and taking the game seriously, while others used it as an opportunity to make jokes. 
  • But many said the comments send a bad message to his young audience and argued that you do not need to become angry to learn from a loss.

Ninja’s Message 

Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, one of the Internet’s biggest gamers, called out players who aren’t angry after a loss, sparking conversations about healthy ways to deal with failure. 

On Tuesday, Ninja tweeted, “The phrase ‘it’s just a game’ is such a weak mindset. You are ok with what happened, losing, imperfection of a craft. When you stop getting angry after losing, you’ve lost twice.”

“There’s always something to learn, and always room for improvement, never settle,” he added.

Reactions 

Many interpreted his tweet as an inspirational message about taking gaming seriously and agreed with him. 

Others used it as an opportunity to crack jokes about his intense remarks, including Lil Nas X and KSI.

But plenty of others thought his comments actually sent a dangerous message about dealing with and learning from failure. 

Gaming YouTuber Ohmwrecker, also known as MaskedGamer, disagreed with Ninja. In a response tweet, he said, “You don’t have to be a sore / salty loser and get all toxic to learn from a loss. I feel strongly losing helps you get better, especially in competitive games.  Anyone doing anything competitive should find value in a loss, but don’t need anger to benefit.”

He also said it actually was weak to suggest that managing your emotions is “losing twice” and accused Ninja of trying to justify his own internal challenges.

Thousands of other users chimed in expressing similar sentiments about managing emotions.

Ninja Says He Never Suggested Violent Rage Was Appropriate 

In a now-deleted tweet, another person called Ninja’s stance disappointing, “particularly from someone with an audience who will take this as ‘it’s ok to smash my keyboard/scream at my loved ones/punch a hole in the wall just because I lost a game.’”

@zhiana

Ninja responded to that user with, “Where in this tweet do I say punch a wall and smash a keyboard/rage? It’s the way you perceived the message 🤔”

When someone argued that Ninja was essentially telling kids to keep playing until they win otherwise they are failures, Ninja said, “‘There is always room for improvement, never settle’ is bad advice?”

The wave of backlash doesn’t seem to have changed Ninja’s mind about his long-running issue with people who say “its just a game.” One user even shared a clip of Ninja once commenting on this topic. “Imagine telling Lebron James, Tom Brady, that when they’re pissed off after losing a game that ‘its just a game,” he says in the clip. 

“Are you kidding me? You’re so stupid. It’s the competitive nature bro. It’s about respect bro. It’s about pride. It’s so much bigger than a fucking video game, and anyone that ever users the excuse ‘it’s just a game’ is a horrible human being and is lazy.” 

See what others are saying: (Dexerto) (GameRevolution) (CCN)

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Jake Paul Criticized for Tweets About Anxiety

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  • YouTuber Jake Paul tweeted, “remember anxiety is created by you,” before advising his followers who might be struggling to remind themselves to be happy, relax their minds, and talk to a friend. 
  • Many found his comments insulting and dangerous, but others defended him for what they felt was a well-intentioned tweet with advice that some might find helpful.  
  • In a follow-up tweet, Paul opened up about his own anxiety issues and explained that he was trying to say there are ways to help cope, but he eventually deleted that post along with his initial tweet.

“Anxiety is Created by You”

Internet users are slamming YouTuber Jake Paul over a tweet about mental health that many found dangerous and insulting. 

On Monday the 23-year-old tweeted, “remember anxiety is created by you. sometimes you gotta let life play out and remind yourself to be happy & that the answers will come.”

“Chill your mind out,” he added before recommending that those struggling “go for a walk” or “talk to a friend.” 

@jakepaul

Backlash 

The tweet prompted thousands of responses from internet users. Many, of course, joked that Paul had “cured” their anxiety. 

Meanwhile, others fired back with more serious responses, including people who suffer from anxiety themselves. 

Fellow YouTubers like Sierra Schultzzie also chimed in writing, “This is actually really harmful. Anxiety can be incredibly physical as well as mental. Mental illness is not the fault of the sufferer.”

“Please delete this, you are doing actual harm to your followers who very well may need to be seeking professional help for their problems,” she added.

Colleen Ballinger tweeted, “telling people with anxiety to just stop having anxiety does not help them with their anxiety.” 

Andrea Russett wrote, “i can’t believe i’m paying $200 an hour for therapy when i could just remind myself to be happy.”

Paul Tries to Clarify 

After seeing some backlash, Paul went back to Twitter with a follow-up post to expand on what he meant. “What I meant is that your anxiety can build up if you let it,” he wrote, “it doesn’t just go away.”

“Mine never does but there’s days where it’s really bad and then there’s days when it’s not as bad so if anxiety starts to build up there ARE ways to help it chill out.” 

@jakepaul

In another tweet, he wrote: “everyone is clowning my tweet but not it’s spreading more awareness about anxiety which I didn’t even know was a thing till I was 18 but had it my whole life & never knew how to deal with it.”

“If u think u have it or wanna deal with it try reading this,” Paul added along with a link to an article about coping with anxiety from Healthline.com.

In response to those comments, more influencers explained what exactly their issues were with his initial post.

Taylor Nicole Dean said, “ur tweet spread bAD info about anxiety bc it can stop people from getting help when it’s needed thinking they can just walk it off and chill :/ it was also a lil insulting to those who deal with it.”

Sky Williams responded by telling Paul his tweet was dangerous to his young audience. “Anxiety is bad enough as it is, but now you’re trying to make it seem like its our fault that we feel anxious. it’s just so invalidating and shortsighted. You should delete it.”

Paul eventually deleted his initial post as well as his follow up tweet, but left up think link he shared about coping with anxiety. 

Some Defend Paul

Despite the widespread backlash against Paul, many felt that his tweet was well-intentioned and could be helpful advice for some. 

Others argued that he shouldn’t be attacked for trying to share advice that has helped him. Instead, those who took issue with his phrasing or message should use this as an opportunity to educate.

See what others are saying: (Mashable) (Newsweek) (BBC)

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