YouTube caused some serious consternation when it announced changes to its Terms of Service last week, writing in an email to users that it was rolling out new Terms on Dec. 11 in order to “improve readability and transparency.”
YouTube noted that the changes will not impact how it collects and processes user data. Also, given that some changes impact child viewers, YouTube stated that parents who allow their children to watch YouTube Kids are agreeing to the new Terms on their behalf.
All told, two specific updates within the new TOS garnered the most backlash on social media, per The Verge. One stated that “YouTube is under no obligation to host or serve content,” and another stated that “YouTube may terminate your access, or your Google account’s access to all or part of the service if YouTube believes, in its sole discretion, that provision of the service to you is no longer commercially viable.”
The first line is likely a response to ongoing free speech arguments across YouTube. (Despite stating that it is under no obligation to host or serve content, CEO Susan Wojcicki penned a letter defending the “openness of the YouTube platform in late August). The second line, while ostensibly outrage-inducing, has actually been in the TOS since 2018. (YouTube changes its Terms often and has done so three times this year, notes The Verge). The only alteration this time around are the words ‘sole discretion’; previously, the Terms stated that YouTube could terminate access if it “reasonably believed” that features were no longer commercially viable.
To clarify, there are no new rights in our ToS to terminate an account bc it’s not making money. As before, we may discontinue certain YouTube features or parts of the service, for ex., if they’re outdated or have low usage. This does not impact creators/viewers in any new ways.
— TeamYouTube (@TeamYouTube) November 11, 2019
Furthermore, the TeamYouTube help account explained yesterday that this line is actually in reference to potential YouTube features that are underperforming, and thus could be discontinued — not channels. “There are no new rights in our TOS to terminate an account because it’s not making money,” TeamYouTube Tweeted. “As before, we may discontinue certain YouTube features or parts of the service…if they’re outdated or have low usage. This does not impact creators/viewers in any new ways.”
“We’re not changing the way our products work, how we collect or process data, or any of your settings,” a YouTube spokesperson told The Verge, adding that the company is “also not changing how we work with creators, nor their rights over their works, or their right to monetize.”
Many of the latest changes have to do with child protection and arrive in the wake of YouTube’s $170 million settlement with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in September, for which it was punished for collecting data on underage users. There is a new section on parental responsibility, and the age requirements for each country are more clearly stated, The Verge reports.