Class Action Suit Claims YouTube Responsible for Lost Ad Dollars Because Algorithm De-monitizes Content
Google-owned YouTube is getting hit with one PR crisis after another this year. The latest — a class-action lawsuit led by YouTuber ZombieGoBoom, filed on July 13th claiming that “YouTube intentionally caused Adpocalypse to occur, in an effort to appease its advertising partners, at the expense of its content providers.”
The recent Adpocalypse was sparked by YouTube’s response to advertiser concerns about brand safety and a revenue hit in the multi-millions after brands like Johnson&Johnson,Verizon and AT&T pulled ads from the platform.
But since then, YouTubers have seen a much strict approach to ensuring brand safety for advertisers, including erroneous take-downs and flags as well as censorship of videos.
“YouTube took one of my videos down recently that had already had millions of views after two days,” said one top-tier creator who has a few million subscribers. “I had to reach high up at YouTube to get anyone to pay attention to my video being improperly flagged, and then it was too late, I probably lost thousands of dollars over that next couple days.”
This is the argument made by ZombieGoBoom co-operaters James Sweet and Chuck Mere, who claim that their channel gets 6 to 10 million views per month, “roughly equivalent to the number of views that a popular television show on cable would receive.”
“YouTube tried to knock down views for channels that it seemed were not as advertiser friendly as other ones, which means not family friendly,” said Mere in a video (below). “I think [YouTube] mixes up advertiser friendly and family friendly, because you can be advertiser friendly and not family friendly if your production values are high.”
After YouTube instated a new algorithm to net potentially brand unsafe content, Sweet and Mere,whose videos are a self-proclaimed as a “Mythbusters” meets “The Walking Dead” series, saw a 90% decrease in viewership and revenue and 6 of their top 10 videos were demonitized amongst dozens of others.
And when the lifeblood of your business relies on ad dollars and rev splits from YouTube, every day counts, especially within the first week of release.
“We have always worked hard to provide creators with the opportunity to earn revenue on our platform,” said a YouTube spokesperson about the suit.
But as Mere sees it YouTube’s approach is unlawful. “They are using the bots to fix the problem that the bots messed up in the first place,” he says. “This is a form of censorship. If people can not make money producing high quality videos because of certain things, it makes it so that they have to produce something else or nothing at all.”
At the beginning of the summer, YouTube attempted to address the issue by providing more information on the changes via blog post.
While its too early to assess how many other creators will ban together with Mere and Sweet, the structure of the suit is class action, implying the goal is to have disgruntled creators join them to increase the magnitude of the suit to strong arm YouTube.
YouTube’s unexpected changes to its algorithm have long been a recurring gripe from creators and it’s usually been the stance of the streaming platform that its Terms of Service indicate it may make changes as the expense of the users of its platform. This could be YouTube’s main argument in this suit as well.
“YouTube is already working to make the right changes,” added the anonymous creator. “And the changes look promising but it’s too early to tell if they are going to do right by us.”