Update, March 11: YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki has announced that YouTube is making an exception to its sensitive events policy, and “a limited number of channels” will soon be able to run ads on videos about coronavirus.
Original story below:
YouTube is demonetizing videos about coronavirus under its “sensitive events” policy, the platform confirms to Tubefilter.
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This week, a number of creators have alleged that YouTube is demonetizing any video where the coronavirus is mentioned, even if the video’s contents are otherwise unrelated. Some have admitted to actively avoiding using terms like “coronavirus” or “COVID-19” (the virus’s technical name) out of fear YouTube is auto-scanning uploads and demonetizing any containing them.
And, as The Verge notes, some creators have had their videos demonetized for discussing ripple effects of coronavirus–but others haven’t. Gaming outlet Spawn Wave Media (397K subscribers) uploaded a video about the annual Game Developers Conference, which was just cancelled due to coronavirus concerns. The host avoided saying “coronavirus”–instead referring to it as “CV”–but the video was demonetized.
Meanwhile, Linus Tech Tips (10.3 million subscribers) uploaded a video last week advising viewers to purchase computers and computer parts now, because coronavirus could cause manufacturing slowdowns and shortages in China.
“For today’s video, I won’t be directly commenting on the recent health-related news because A, I am not a healthcare professional, and B, I don’t need my video demonetized,” Linus says at the start of the video.
His video does not appear to be demonetized.
I made up abbreviations to say like CV, but it still gets tagged as unsuitable. It was in a video about GDC being cancelled, so maybe events affected by Corona Virus being talked about can trigger their bot for review as well.
— Spawn Wave (@SpawnWaveMedia) March 3, 2020
The videos that are being demonetized are being targeted because of YouTube’s long-standing sensitive events policy, which is part of the platform’s advertiser-friendly content guidelines. Under this policy, YouTube demonetizes any video about a recent “sensitive event”–tragedies like shootings, natural disasters, and pandemics that result in a loss of life—“even if the content is purely commentary or contains no graphic imagery.”
This policy applies only to events that are “relatively recent.” Historical events “are generally allowed to monetize if presented within the context of a documentary or historical debate,” per YouTube.
The COVID-19 outbreak is still ongoing, and thus far has resulted in more than 93,000 confirmed cases and 3,200 confirmed deaths. YouTube began considering it a sensitive event in early February, according to a Creator Insider video uploaded at the time. In the video, Tom Leung, YouTube’s director of product management, said that “all videos focused on this topic will be demonetized until further notice.”
Tubefilter asked YouTube whether mere mentions of the virus (for example, if a creator uploads a makeup tutorial where their signoff is a well wish for coronavirus victims) will result in demonetization, or if ads are only stripped from videos primarily about COVID-19. We also asked whether YouTube scans uploads for mentions of the word “coronavirus” and automatically demonetizes them. The platform declined to provide additional information.
While it’s not clear how far the policy goes, the bottom line is this: YouTube is stripping advertising off coronavirus-related uploads to prevent itself and creators from profiting off content about a worldwide health crisis.