Shane Dawson’s new hour-and-a-half-long exploration of conspiracy theories was demonetized by YouTube for 12 hours — not because of its focus on conspiracy theories, but because of a reviewing mistake.
The new video from Dawson, one of YouTube’s most popular creators who has over 20 million subscribers, has amassed more than 7 million views since being posted last night. The video contained multiple ad spots when it was first published, but those ad placements disappeared only a couple of hours later. Although Dawson’s conspiracy series is sponsored, he didn’t receive any advertising revenue for those crucial hours.
Dawson’s video has since been remonetized, but it was originally cut off because it included a clip of footage showing a dangerous prank. YouTube recently altered its community guidelines to specifically tackle dangerous pranks — especially in wake of potentially harmful stunts like the Bird Box Challenge, which had creators like Jake Paul driving around blindfolded. Since Dawson included footage of the prank, YouTube’s system assumed that the video was promoting harmful and dangerous activities, and it removed monetization privileges.
“To show ads, videos must comply with our Advertiser-Friendly Guidelines,” a YouTube spokesperson told The Verge via email. “Sometimes we get it wrong when determining whether a video is suitable for advertising, so we encourage creators to appeal for a review if they think there’s been an error. We work quickly to restore advertising as soon as we’re made aware of a mistake.”
The Internet Creators Guild, an organization dedicated to fighting for creators’ rights, noted in 2016 that “erroneous de-monetization will always result in significant lost revenue.” Plus, demonetized videos that aren’t seen as family-friendly may not be recommended. All of this means that Dawson lost out on a ton of revenue within those first 12 hours. Even if Dawson was making the average return on display ads ($2 per every thousand views), that means he lost out on $14,000 within those 12 hours. Dawson is likely earning even more than $2 per 1,000 views because of his popularity and influence on the platform, though.
“Even now that the notification & appeals process is in place, a video could still be de-monetized for hours or days after upload while the manual review is pending,” the Creators Guild wrote. “That could particularly hit hard at timely or viral content.”
Originally, many fans assumed Dawson’s video was demonetized because of its focus on conspiracy theories, another issue YouTube has tried to tackle. Dawson’s video focuses on a number of conspiracy theories, including subliminal suicide messaging in cartoons as a form of population control, iPhones constantly recording what people are saying, and a theory that the California wildfires were intentional.
YouTube has been trying not to monetize or promote content that could be seen as potentially harmful, including conspiracy theories. The company even announced a new push last week to recommend fewer conspiracy theories, which could help explain why Dawson’s video isn’t on the site’s Trending Page, despite amassing more than 7 million views.
Even Dawson was prepared to face major demonetization woes. In a response to notable conspiracy theorist Paul Joseph Watson on Twitter, Dawson said YouTube has demonetized other conspiracy theory videos he’s posted, too.
“I’ve never made money on my conspiracy videos and I’ve had some removed,” Dawson wrote. “It’s the risk of being into this dark shit I guess!”
Update (January 31, 11:13 am ET): The story has been updated to include YouTube’s statement.