- 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” and “Kids 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.
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.
Jake Paul Launches Anti-Bullying Charity
The charity, called Boxing Bullies, aims to use the sport to give kids confidence and courage.
Jake Paul Launches Boxing Bullies Foundation
YouTuber Jake Paul — best known as the platform’s boxer, wreckless partier, and general troublemaker — has seemingly launched a non-profit to combat bullying.
The charity is called Boxing Bullies. According to a mission statement posted on Instagram, it aims to “instill self confidence, leadership, and courage within the youth through the sport of boxing while using our platform, voice, and social media to fight back against bullying.”
If the notion of a Paul-founded anti-bullying charity called “Boxing Bullies” was not already begging to be compared to former First Lady Melania Trump’s “Best Best” initiative, maybe the group’s “Boxing Bullies Commandments” will help connect the dots. Those commandments use an acronym for the word “BOX” to spell out the charity’s golden rules.
“Be kind to everyone; Only defend, never initiate; X-out bullying.”
Paul Hopes To “Inspire” Kids To Stand Up For Themselves
Paul first said he was launching Boxing Bullies during a July 13 interview following a press conference for his upcoming fight against Tyron Woodley.
“I know who I am at the end of the day, which is a good person,” he told reporters. “I’m trying to change this sport, bring more eyeballs. I’m trying to support other fighters, increase fighter pay. I’m starting my charity, I’m launching that in 12 days here called Boxing Bullies and we’re helping to fight against cyberbullying.”
It has not been quite 12 days since the interview, so it’s likely that more information about the organization will be coming soon. Currently, the group has been the most active on Instagram, where it boasts a following of just around 1,200 followers. It has posted once to Twitter, where it has 32 followers; and has a TikTok account that has yet to publish any content. It also has a website, though there is not too much on it as of yet.
On its Instagram, one post introducing Paul as the founder claims the rowdy YouTuber started this charity because he has been on the receiving end of bullying.
“Having been a victim of bullying himself, Jake experienced firsthand the impact it has on a person’s life,” the post says. “Jake believes that this is a prevailing issue in society that isn’t talked about enough. Boxing gave Jake the confidence to not care about what others think and he wants to share the sport and the welfare it‘s had on him with as many kids as possible.”
It adds that he hopes his group can“inspire the next generation of kids to be leaders, be athletes, and to fight back against bullying.”
Paul Previously Accused of Being a Bully
While fighting against bullying is a noble cause, it is an ironic project for Paul to start, as he has faced no shortage of bullying accusations. While Paul previously sang about “stopping kids from getting bullied” in the lunchroom, some have alleged he himself was actually a classic high school bully who threw kids’ backpacks into garbage cans.
This behavior allegedly continued into his adulthood, as a New York Times report from earlier this year claimed he ran his Team 10 house with a culture of toxicity and bullying. Among other things, sources said he involved others in violent pranks, pressured people into doing dangerous stunts, and destroyed peoples’ personal property to make content.
See what others are saying: (Dexerto)
Director Defends Recreating Anthony Bourdain’s Voice With AI in New Documentary
The film’s director claims he received permission from Bourdain’s estate and literary agent, but on Thursday, Bourdain’s widow publicly denied ever giving that permission.
Bourdain’s Voice Recreated
“You are successful, and I am successful, and I’m wondering: Are you happy?” Anthony Bourdain says in a voiceover featured in “Roadrunnner,” a newly released documentary about the late chef — except Bourdain never actually said those words aloud.
Instead, it’s one of three lines in the film, which features frequent voiceovers from Bourdain, that were created through the use of artificial intelligence technology.
That said, the words are Bourdain’s own. In fact, they come from an email Bourdain reportedly wrote to a friend prior to his 2018 suicide. Nonetheless, many have now questioned whether recreating Bourdain’s voice was ethical, especially since documentaries are meant to reflect reality.
Director Defends Use of AI Voice
The film’s director, Academy Award winner Morgan Neville, has defended his use of the synthetic voice, telling Variety that he received permission from Bourdain’s estate and literary agent before inserting the lines into the film.
“There were a few sentences that Tony wrote that he never spoke aloud,” Neville said. “It was a modern storytelling technique that I used in a few places where I thought it was important to make Tony’s words come alive.”
Bourdain’s widow — Ottavia Bourdain, who is the executor of his estate — later denied Neville’s claim on Twitter, saying, “I certainly was NOT the one who said Tony would have been cool with that.”
In another interview with GQ, Neville described the process, saying the film’s creators “fed more than ten hours of Tony’s voice into an AI model.”
“The bigger the quantity, the better the result,” he added. “We worked with four companies before settling on the best.”
“If you watch the film,” Neville told The New Yorker, “you probably don’t know what the other lines are that were spoken by the AI, and you’re not going to know. We can have a documentary-ethics panel about it later.”
The Ethics Debate Isn’t Being Tabled
But many want to have that discussion now.
Boston-based film critic Sean Burns, who gave the film a rare negative review, later criticized it again for its unannounced use of AI, saying he wasn’t aware that Bourdain’s voice had been recreated until after he watched the documentary.
Meanwhile, The New Yorker’s Helen Rosner wrote that the “seamlessness of the effect is eerie.”
“If it had been a human voice double I think the reaction would be “huh, ok,” but there’s something truly unsettling about the idea of it coming from a computer,” Rosner later tweeted.
Online, many others have criticized the film’s use of AI, with some labeling it as a “deepfake.”
Others have offered more mixed criticism, saying that while the documentary highlights the need for posthumous AI use to be disclosed, it should not be ruled out altogether.
“In a world where the living could consent to using AI to reproduce their voices posthumously, and where people were made aware that such a technology was being used, up front and in advance, one could envision that this kind of application might serve useful documentary purposes,” David Leslie, ethics lead at the Alan Turing Institute, told the BBC.
Celebrities Recreated After Death
The posthumous use of celebrity likeness in media is not a new debate. In 2012, a hologram of Tupac took the stage 15 years after his death. In 2014, the Billboard Music Awards brought a hologram of Michael Jackson onstage five years after his death. Meanwhile, the Star Wars franchise digitally recreated actor Peter Cushing in 2016’s “Rogue One,” and unused footage of actress Carrie Fisher was later translated into “The Rise of Skywalker,” though a digital version of Fisher was never used.
In recent years, it has become almost standard for filmmakers to say that they will not create digital versions of characters whose actors die unexpectedly. For example, several months after Chadwick Boseman’s death last year, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” executive producer Victoria Alonso confirmed Boseman would not be digitally recreated for his iconic role as King T’Challa.
See what others are saying: (BBC) (Yahoo! News) (Variety)
Doctors Want You to Know: Whatever You Do, Don’t Stick Garlic up Your Nose to Try and Relieve Congestion
They warn the new TikTok trend could cause even worse problems, such as irritation and swelling.
TikTok Garlic Nose Trend
In a viral trend that feels eerily similar to the Nutmeg Challenge, doctors are now warning people against participating in a TikTok trend that has users shoving whole cloves of garlic up their noses for 20 to 30 minutes at a time.
In the videos, creators claim that garlic can relieve sinus congestion, and once they pull the cloves out of their nostrils, an excessive amount of snot comes flowing out of their noses.
“Since tik tok took it down the first time. THIS IS NOT DANGEROUS. The garlic cleans out your sinuses,” TikTok user hwannah5 said in a June 25 post.
Doctors are now warning the opposite, saying that there’s no medical proof garlic acts as a decongestant.
As Dr. Richard Wender of the University of Pennsylvania told Insider, “Evidence is important, and it would be wrong to say that we’ve done extensive research about garlic in noses.”
“But in general, garlic itself and the chemicals of garlic don’t interact much with human tissue,” he added.
Wender went on to explain that stuffing one’s nose with foreign objects can actually cause irritation and swelling, rather than relief.
“Yes, it’s true that garlic has some antibacterial properties, which means it may be useful to treat a variety of common ailments,” Dr. Deborah Lee from Dr. Fox Online Pharmacy told Delish. “In one study, those who took garlic supplements for three months had less colds than those who did not. But this is not the same as actively treating a stuffy nose or blocked sinuses. Garlic is not a decongestant, and in fact, may just irritate the lining of the nose and airways and make symptoms worse.”
As far as what’s causing streams of snot to pour out of people’s noses after inserting their garlic plugs, Wender said that may be occurring because the nose produces mucus when irritated. On top of that, the cloves can also block already-existing mucus from flowing.
Instead, doctors recommend using already-known solutions if you’re feeling congested, such as vapor rubs, antihistamines, over-the-counter saline sprays, and neti pots.
TikTok user hwannah5 later responded to a doctor’s explanation that the clove blocks create rather than clear mucus, noting that others shouldn’t repeatedly try the blocks. Doctors contend that the trend should not be done at all.