Several YouTube moderators say that the platform’s most popular creators receive special treatment when it comes to moderation of their channels, allowing them to get away with worse behavior than a typical YouTube creator would, according to a new report from The Washington Post. Many of YouTube’s creators aren’t surprised.
Moderators told The Washington Post that “recommendations to strip advertising” from videos that appeared to violate the site’s rules were “frequently overruled by higher-ups” when high-profile creators were involved. This includes creators like Logan Paul, Steven Crowder, and Felix “PewDiePie” Kjellberg, all of whom have faced controversies around the content on their channels. While all three creators have been stripped of advertising privileges in the past (Crowder’s channel is still demonetized), several moderators told the Post that advertisers were eventually brought back because of the creators’ popularity.
YouTube makes money off of advertisements, and top creators account for a big portion of that. Creators, who often watch notable personalities go through controversies only to continue securing advertising not long after the fact, recognize that YouTube is incentivized to favor those with millions and millions of subscribers. Roberto Blake, a popular YouTube creator and commentator on the industry, told The Verge that while giving special treatment to bigger creators is a double standard, “it’s not uncommon for top earners or top performers within an organization to be able to play fast and loose with the rules.”
“While disheartening to come to the conclusion that all creators are not treated equal, I think we have to acknowledge that the same constructs of our overall society extend to the internet world as well,” Blake said.
YouTube’s executives have previously confirmed that there are different standards for a video’s removal than a video’s demonetization. YouTube has a “higher standard for monetization,” CEO Susan Wojcicki told YouTube creator Alfie Deyes last week, adding that a “big part of that” is in response to advertisers.
“I think it’s important to remember there are a broad range of advertisers with a broad range of desires,” Wojcicki said.
Advertising is key to YouTube’s business. One moderator told the Post that their “responsibility was never to the creators or to the users — it was to the advertisers.” That could explain why a creator like Paul only received a two-week advertising suspension after a series of disturbing videos were uploaded to his channel. YouTube shows advertisers that the company took action by removing ads, but then allowed advertisers to return to Paul’s channel if they wanted. It was like Paul’s previous videos never happened, one moderator told the Post.
“It’s blatantly clear that YouTube has preferential treatment for large creators because that’s what keeps their business running,” Christopher Boutte, a creator and author of a book on YouTube culture, told The Verge. “What many creators lack to understand is that if YouTube didn’t keep advertisers happy and bring in revenue, many of us would see even more of a decrease in our income.”
YouTubers have regularly asked for more transparency in how the platform’s moderation rules work. Executives “don’t address these things, and I think that hurts trust with creators,” Boutte said. “I’d have a lot more respect for Wojcicki and the YouTube team if they just gave some tough love.”
Policies are constantly shifting, but YouTube has made “significant investments in the people, tools, and technology needed to live up to our responsibility,” a YouTube spokesperson told The Verge. The machine learning tools the company uses to find videos and the training they supply moderators is accompanied “by a systematic review of our policies to make sure we’re drawing the line in the right place.”
“We apply these policies consistently, regardless of who a creator is,” the spokesperson said.