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YouTube tightens rules around videos with external links

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Game Club & Pub / YouTube

YouTube is adding new requirements for users who link out to crowdfunding campaigns or other external sites in their videos. Users must now join the YouTube Partner Program in order to add end cards with external links — a common way for YouTubers to point fans toward merchandise or Patreon pages. This limits the cards to channels with 10,000 total public views or more, once YouTube has approved them for the program.

A YouTube spokesperson says this is supposed to curb abuse of the cards by letting the platform individually evaluate channels before allowing them. Like many YouTube policy tweaks, the change has caused confusion among users, several of whom believed YouTube was intentionally blocking links to Patreon campaigns. The spokesperson, however, says that this change isn’t targeting any specific site.

YouTube’s interface now tells users to enable their channel for monetization if they want to add links, which has further muddied the waters. “Enabling monetization” essentially means applying to the Partnership Program, but users took it to mean that YouTube only allowed end cards on videos where it was running ads. The spokesperson says this isn’t the case, and that Partnership Program members can use the cards even if they never monetize any videos. In theory, this means users don’t have to worry about losing cards on videos that YouTube has demonetized for controversial content. Either way, the change doesn’t stop people from putting links in video descriptions; you just can’t put them front and center on people’s screens without approval.

This change essentially expands a restriction that YouTube placed on advertising earlier this year, when it only let people monetize videos once they’d hit 10,000 views. That shift was supposed to stop people from reaping rewards from sketchy channels that uploaded copyrighted material or ripped off content from other YouTubers. But the site doesn’t seem to have communicated this new rule very well, so it isn’t surprising that creators were worried, given the already tumultuous relationship YouTube has with its users.

Here’s the full YouTube statement:

In order to use externally-linking end cards in videos, creators are being asked to join the YouTube Partner program, so that we can evaluate the validity of the channel, as well as determine whether the channel is following our community guidelines and advertiser policies. This update is meant to curb abuse and does not affect current YouTube partners or existing end cards. Additionally channels do not have to actually monetize any videos as part of this requirement.