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YouTube is fighting the ‘adpocalypse’ with a less trigger-happy flagging system

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YouTube says it’s updated its automated flagging system to restrict advertisements on fewer videos. The new algorithm, which began rolling out yesterday afternoon, is supposed to more accurately reflect YouTube’s guidelines for ad-friendly material. It will supposedly reduce the number of demonetized listings by 30 percent, so “millions more videos” will be able to make money off the full range of advertisements. The change could help salve users’ frustrations over YouTube’s ad policy, a long-standing point of tension that’s become more pressing over the past year.

A YouTube manager writes that the new algorithm was trained by nearly three months’ worth of human reviews, starting after YouTube added a manual appeals process for creators in August. Theoretically, this should narrow the range of false positives — videos that were incorrectly flagged for promoting drug use, using excessive profanity, highlighting gratuitous violence, or otherwise featuring content that advertisers might find objectionable. It’s being applied retroactively, so creators who didn’t appeal could still get some old videos remonetized. Google also encourages people to keep appealing potentially incorrect flags, because “this updated system is an improvement, but it’s not perfect.”

As Polygon notes, YouTube creators started warning of an “adpocalypse” this spring, after seeing lots of videos stripped of advertising for unclear reasons. YouTube has spent the ensuing months trying to make the standards more consistent and transparent. But it’s still shaken YouTube video makers’ faith in advertising as a main source of funding.

If creators have fundamental problems with the advertiser guidelines, this doesn’t actually change the rules — which can limit videos that cover any “sensitive” topics, for instance, even if they’re non-graphic and presented for news or educational purposes. The change will also be moot for small or new channels, since YouTube requires at least 10,000 overall views before offering ad revenue. But if the new algorithm does massively reduce the number of demonetized videos, creators will at least be able to better predict which videos advertisers won’t touch.