As of April 2, all creators in the YouTube Partner Program are able to monetize videos about COVID-19.
That’s because the platform is making a rare exception to its sensitive events policy, which normally bars creators (both individuals and organizations like news outlets) from running ads on videos about tragedies like shootings, natural disasters, and pandemics. In February, YouTube confirmed that under this policy, it would demonetize content with “more than a passing mention” of the coronavirus.
But, as YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki explained in a letter to creators last month, the policy was only designed for short-term implementation–and the pandemic is not a short-term event.
“It’s becoming clear this issue is now an ongoing and important part of everyday conversation,” Wojcicki wrote.
Accordingly, partner creators can now monetize “content that references and/or features COVID-19,” YouTube said in a new Help Center post.
The platform also warned, however, that allowing monetization isn’t carte blanche for creators to post whatever they want. Content about the pandemic must still meet YouTube’s Advertiser-Friendly and Community Guidelines, and there are some kinds of coronavirus-related content that are barred from monetization altogether.
For example, videos that spread medical misinformation about COVID-19 are not eligible for monetization. Creators cannot monetize videos that encourage non-medical testing or push fake cures, or videos that contain conspiracy theories about the virus’ origin or spread. Videos that claim a particular government or corporation created COVID-19 as a bioweapon, that COVID-19 is spread by 5G wireless networks, that it targets certain ethnic groups, or that it’s a hoax will be demonetized, and likely removed from YouTube.
Creators also cannot monetize content that includes “footage of people visibly suffering due to COVID-19,” such as videos of people in a medical care facility or people being forcibly removed from a location because they’re suspected to be ill. (YouTube clarifies that “shots of hospitals or people coughing do not limit monetization, so long as they are fleeting and are to provide context to a story.”)
Additionally barred from monetization are videos with pandemic-related pranks or challenges. So, YouTube says, don’t film yourself pretending to pass out or cough on other people’s food, don’t dress up in hazmat suits and pretend to inspect people, don’t record yourself falsely telling a loved one you have COVID-19, and please, please do not try the “licking toilet seat challenge.”
All Creators in YPP can now monetize COVID-19 related content that follows Community & Ad friendly Guidelines – look for a notif in Studio this week & next.
— TeamYouTube #StayHome (@TeamYouTube) April 2, 2020
Overall, YouTube recommends creators fact-check their content using information from the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control, or National Health Service. It also advises them to be sensitive: “We ask that if you choose to share COVID-19-related content, you do so with the best intentions in mind.”
Because the change in policy is so new, YouTube’s systems are still learning, and creators may temporarily see some videos being marked as limited or no ads, even if those videos are now monetizable. The platform urges creators to submit an appeal if they think a video has been inappropriately demonetized. (Worth noting here: Due to social distancing, YouTube has sent home many of its 10,000+ human content moderators, and is currently relying on automated systems for demonetization flags and appeals. So, creators could see more incorrect demonetizations and longer wait times for appeals.)
Tubefilter reached out to YouTube to ask whether this policy will only affect new uploads, or if it will apply retroactively to videos that were demonetized in February and March. YouTube tells us it will be re-reviewing previously demonetized videos, but that process will take time.
A company spokesperson also issued this statement:
“As COVID-19 has become a part of our everyday lives, we want to support creators and news organizations covering this important topic. As previously announced, we’re now expanding monetization of COVID-19 content to all creators in the YouTube Partner Program. As always, all content on YouTube must comply with our Advertiser-Friendly Guidelines to be suitable for advertising.”