YouTube’s Obscurantist Community Standards: Update on my Standing
Far be it for me to call @SusanWojcicki a hypocrite or incompetent, but…
The Trial is one of Franz Kafka’s greatest works; unfinished, and not published until after his death, it is nonetheless a perfect synopsis of his examination of unaccountable bureaucracies, systems which start with the presumption of guilt, and byzantine legal procedures.
It follows the story of Josef K., the CFO of a local bank who is accosted by two agents of an unknown legal authority who inform him that he has been charged with a crime. The specifics of the crime are never revealed; the court room is located in a decrepit and labyrinthine tenement building; the legal procedures for determining guilt or innocence are only begrudgingly revealed by those with loose connections to the court; and the source of the court’s authority are never revealed.
Kafkaesque may be an over-used term, but it perfectly sums up the experience of dealing with YouTube’s Partner Support program. The 3rd party complainant who initiates the strikes against the creator remains anonymous, and the specifics of their complaint are never revealed. The standards which the creator is accused of violating are only vaguely described, and the specific violation is never precisely defined. Guilt is presumed prior to investigation, and the authorities who judge you are anonymous and unaccountable. The verdict you receive is stated, but never explained.
I was inducted into this process a week ago; I have received neither explanation nor justification.
On March 9th, 8 days prior to this writing, I received a flag on one of my videos:
This is not the first time this has happened to me; a bit over a year ago a video of mine was flagged by Social Justice Warriors upset over the documentary I was filming at the time. The title of said video was Why Blacks Fail, and it described a process wherein Blacks are exploited by business interests who leach off of them, preventing a long-term source of income and stability; think of musicians who are exploited by the record companies, or athletes who live an unsustainable life style. The video was targetted for its controversial title, and immediately removed, but following YouTube’s review of the content it was restored (though I chose to leave it offline to avoid the controversy, and since it was hardly one of my best videos).
Initially I assumed this would be a similar case; some censorious left-wing troll filing false complaints about an old video, which would be restored after going through the process.
The next morning I woke up and my YouTube channel was gone.
During the night, the left-wing censor had flagged numerous other videos; possibly all of my videos. I can only report to you the list which YouTube chose to inform me of; this is what currently appears on my YouTube Channel Status page:
- “Theology I: The Garden of Eden (1 of 4)” (https://youtu.be/AZKLgmYA_lA)
- “Theology II: Sin” (https://youtu.be/foLz0D_EmBg)
- “Theology III: Forgiveness” (https://youtu.be/9kBO6sI9l7g)
- “Theology IV: American Christianity” (https://youtu.be/ATVDrH-TyLg)
- “Restoring the Virtue of Women” (https://youtu.be/7aEnBqOlHXo)
- “The Erosion of Privacy” (https://youtu.be/g9CknpRgNpc)
- “Appearance & Essence; Tradcons & Marriage” (https://youtu.be/z2sE6OgV6TM)
- “The Question Libertarians Just Can’t Answer (a response to Stefan Molyneux)” (https://youtu.be/34Xla8XPYz0)
- “The Corporate Boyfriend” (https://youtu.be/BIXsyfDL4Bw)
- “Dating Advice for Anita Sarkeesian” (https://youtu.be/74Cwqked2dY)
In addition to these ten videos, there were three others that YouTube initially mentioned when shutting down my channel, but which do not currently appear on the Channel Status page:
- “Podcast: A Short & Concise Conversation with Ryan Faulk” (https://youtu.be/gb83mvw7Xqo)
- “Podcast: More Right Than a Fascist Cat” (https://youtu.be/qd9QfHyTc_I)
- “The Manosphere: A Response to 20/20 with Doctor Illusion” (https://youtu.be/XLcrWuZp3jI)
Note: All of these complaints seem have been filed during a 24 hour period, and all of these videos were made years ago. At the time of peak traffic, none of them were taken down or deemed in violation of YouTube’s policy. This is not the case of somebody stumbling across some old video of mine where I said “Man, I hate people with Blue skin, we should hang them from lamp posts, and then over-throw the Federal Government,” it was a pre-meditated false-flag against my channel for the sake of censorship. The title of most of these videos is evidence enough of that.
Furthermore there is the standard which they are said to be violating:
We don’t allow content that encourages illegal activities or incites users to violate YouTube’s guidelines.
I am not being accused of something stupid or vague such as “Hate Speech” of “Bullying” (catch-all terms with no clear definition); I am being accused of promoting illegal activities by discussing the Bible!
Upon appealing these strikes, this is the conversation that followed. I’ve been considering whether or not to reproduce it in full, but given that YouTube’s utter rejection of transparency and accountability, putting their mendacious incompetence on full display is the least I can do for other creators.
Pay particular attention to the emails signed by Rhea; ‘she’ seems to contradict herself, message to message, and is either overworked to the point of incompetence, or (more likely) is a fake name used by all of those in the YouTube Partner Support office to preserve their anonymity… as well as to manipulate the recipient, since a name that is both foreign and female is more likely to engender patience in most people (or racist outbursts which can then be used as an excuse to do nothing). The emails, with dates, follow (and just to warn you – I’m ex-army; I have a very low tolerance threshold for incompetence, and those who refuse to accept responsibility):
Youtube, March 9th, 2016
Thank you for contacting us. We’re writing to let you know that we’ve received your support message.
Rest assured that a YouTube team member will get back to you with a response as soon as possible. It can take up to one business day before you receive your response. If you reach out to us over the weekend, we might not be able to respond until Monday.
For additional help, please visit our YouTube Support Options page.
The YouTube Support Team
YouTube, March 10th
Thanks for contacting YouTube.
The email you’ve mentioned talks about the video ‘Red Pill Virtue’ being removed from your channel as it’s flagged inappropriate by the relevant team as it violates the YouTube Community Guidelines. The removal of this video did not result in a strike on your channel.
Please provide us with the channel URL and the video ID, if you’d like me to investigate further.
Do feel free to write back in case of any other questions, I’ll be happy to help.
Google YouTube Team
Google Inc.| YouTube Team | YouTube for Creators website | www.youtube.com
We value your feedback! If you receive a survey, please take a minute to rate your support experience.
Aurini, March 10thYou guys shut down my channel earlier today, after a whole bunch more false-flagging of my videos occurred.
Why are you trusting the complaints of anonymous trolls rather than a man who you’ve been in business with for years?
YouTube, March 11th
Thanks for contacting YouTube.
I understand your concern. However, for us to investigate further or look into your channel details, please provide us with your channel URL.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Aurini, March 11th
My channel’s URL *used to be* /Aurini (it was the channel connected to this account) but you deleted it. Why? On what grounds? You stated that I “violated community guidelines” in two videos – one discussing the Bible, the other criticizing the loss of privacy that we’re seeing in the world. Do you need me to forward you the emails?
Aurini, March 11thSee the attached image. [Ed: the same as the pink image above] What kind of insulting garbage is this?
You put my channel up: good. Now return ALL of those videos; they DO NOT violate th community guidelines. Then remove the strike, and apologize to me for treating me, your long-time business partner, in such a rude and unprofessional manner.
YouTube, March 12th
Appealing video strikes on your channel
I hope this information helps.
Aurini, March 12th
Am I not *currently* appealing these strikes? Is that not why we are speaking? These false claims? The extremely unprofessional behaviour coming from people such as yourself? What happened to Reah, whom I was communicating with two days ago?
From the get-go I have been asking for a straight answer, a just solution, and a frank apology. If you are not the person to be speaking with, provide me your name, and then connect me with your supervisor. Be accountable. Be responsible. Do what is right.
Do your job; correct the errors that your organization has made.
YouTube, March 13th
I understand your concern.
As informed earlier, I recommend you to appeal for the active strikes on your videos by following the instructions in this Help Center article.
Once you appeal, your appeal will be reviewed by the relevant team and they will get back to you on it.
Thanks for understanding.
Aurini, March 13th
Rhea; this IS the appeal conversation. The whole reason I am sending this email is because I FOLLOWED THE GUIDELINES FROM THAT HELP FILE.
Now: frank question: are you actually Rhea? Or is this just a made-up name designed to placate me (by being female, and identifiable) while also intended to create unmentionable outrage in me (by being East Indian, and responding to me at odd hours, implying that any criticism of your incredible incompetence would be a ‘racist’ statement about the Indian people)?
“Thank you for understanding”? I’m asking you to understand my complaint, and fix it, so that we can stop speaking. It’s utterly clear that you have no clue what’s going on, that the basics of written communication are beyond you. Ergo, I suggest that you get your supervisor (you are clearly too incompetent) to have a Skype conversation with me, so that I can stop talking to your bloody CEO over Skype, [ED: I meant to write Twitter; I’m an idiot, and it was late] and get this ridiculous situation resolved.
Rhea: you are either an imaginary person, or too stupid to run a a Dunkin Donuts; pass it up the chain, whatever you are you can’t deal with this.
And resolve this soon, because every minute that you spend wasting my time is a minute that will ultimately damn your corporation.
Aurini, March 13th
Also: up the response time. 24 hours between replies is utterly pathetic. Get your shit together, and fix the problem that I told you about.
Now. Not tomorrow; not Monday; now. Fix it. You have all the data. Show some bloody leadership and FIX IT.
Your task is very very simple. Fix the problem; provide me a formal apology, that I can publish as a testament to the integrity of Google employees; and stop making idiotic excuses in your replies to me.
Now. Right fucking now.
YouTube, March 14th
I have escalated your query to our internal team for review and I expect to hear back from them within a couple of days. Please be assured that I will get back to you with an update as soon as I receive an answer.
I do understand the inconvenience that you may be facing in this situation, and I hope that we will be able to solve it as soon as possible.
Aurini, March 14th
I think it’s worth revisiting what precisely happened.
Over a 12 hour period, some person or persons flagged down dozens of my videos, going back years, claiming that they were promoting criminal behaviour. Most of these videos had titles of a clearly abstract/philosophical bent, and they’d been up all this time without receiving complaints. The complaints were clearly manufactured by some person or group who has a personal grievance with me, rather than a legitimate complaint with my behaviour on YouTube.
You trusted this person, despite the obviously suspicious nature of the complaints.
Furthermore, in trying to converse with you on the topic, I keep having different people added to the conversation, asking me for an update on what’s going on (because apparently they didn’t bother to read the message history), and failing to address the problem of there being unjustified strikes levied against my channel.
If you don’t have the manpower to address this immediately, then the prudent action would be for you to restore my channel until you have time to look into it. You’re putting me in the position where I have to prove my innocence – which is a perverse situation to be in.
YouTube and Google are more than just private companies; you’re archivalists. As such, you have a moral commitment to providing access to information, irrespective of whether you agree with it or not. Certain community standards are necessary – no pornography, no incitement to violence, and so forth – but aside from that, your own integrity – as a company, and as individuals working for that company – must be premised upon the values described in First Ammendment. Anything short of this is moral corruption.
The CEO herself said: “YouTube succeeds when the creators succeed.” I am one of your creators; why are you treating me so shabbily?
After a week of their investigation, I finally received this message from them:
So: YouTube has officially investigated, and determined that reading the Bible or discussing Libertarian moral philosophy promotes criminal behaviour. I followed this up with another email to Partner Support:
Aurini, March 16th
Your “no reply” account just got back to me; I require further information.
Which one of the dozen videos videos which got flagged violated your guidelines, and how? Surely you want to prevent future violations; tell me which community standard it violated.
YouTube, March 17th
Thank you for being patient while I was processing your query.
Our experts had a second look and it appears that your videos have violated our community guidelines. We have very strict guidelines in respect to the content that is uploaded. The reason why we have these policies in place, is that we want to maintain the best possible experience for both our users and partners on YouTube.
As you are a valued partner for us, I had the YouTube specialist re-check this violation. However, the specialist team feels that activity in your account violated our Community Guidelines (http://www.youtube.com/t/community_guidelines), which prohibit spam, scams or commercially deceptive content.
For more information, please visit our Help Center at https://support.google.com/youtube/topic/2803138.
Google YouTube Team
Google Inc.| YouTube Team | Creator Hub | www.youtube.com
Aurini, March 17th
HOW did they violate the community standards? All your automated system has said is that they were “promoting illegal activity”. How is disucssing philosophical precepts considered illegal? Point to one single aspect.
Jose, grab Rhea, and watch any single one of the videos that got flagged. There is nothing illegal in any of them.
So now it’s no longer criminal behaviour that i’m promoting? Discussing the Bible is an act of spamming and scamming? Note that my YouTube Account page still says “promoting illegal activities”, not the spamming and scamming which Jose mentioned.
Given the exhaustive nature of this back-and-forth, I doubt that I will receive any explanation for what content they found offensive, let alone one which is satisfactory.
WTFU: Where’s the Fair Use?
Over the past couple of months, the number of strikes occurring against YouTube creators has sky-rocketed. A number of channels, both major and minor, have been affected, and this has resulted in the WTFU hashtag. Doug Walker of Channel Awesome has provided a thorough and concise breakdown of what’s going on, but in essence it can be summed up as a broken system which:
- Provides financial incentive to those who claim ownership of copyrighted content,
- Offers no penalties for false claims,
- Punishes those who try and fight back,
- And ultimately undermining the principle of Fair Use, restricting all content creators and content consumers on YouTube
This is not what happened to me.
Full disclosure: I have had three such complaints against my channel due to music: two against videos I made roughly a decade ago, and another (never publicly released) where I re-enacted Ron Perlman’s narration for the Fallout intro; these did not result in strikes, merely a redirection of any ad revenue to those who owned the music. They have no bearing on the present situation.
It is impossible to say precisely why my videos got flagged, since – with the accusation of “Violating Community Standards” – the complainant gets to remain anonymous; but it’s no great leap to suggest that the complainant is ideologically motivated.
I am hardly the first person on the right to be falsely flagged by left-wing censors, but YouTube’s endorsement of these claims is particularly striking. The complainant took the ridiculous step of arguing that I was promoting illegal behaviour; YouTube claims to have watched the videos in question, and that they agree with this assessment.
I warned some time ago – specifically in the flagged video “The Erosion of Privacy” – that YouTube was evolving into a Disneyland of non-conversation, intellectual pablum and meaningless entertainment. Quote:
“And, you know, I don’t think I need to tell you people that YouTube, Facebook–these large conglomerations–these are a little bit more than just private companies. Okay? These are archivalists. These are librarians by the very nature of the work they do, and the dominance they have in the industry–they have a moral responsibility to protect freedom of speech, to protect information.
Ripping the ad revenue away from people the way that YouTube is threatening to do with these new terms of service–this has a chilling effect on freedom of speech.
What YouTube is trying to do, is turn it into the Disney Channel. So, if you want to talk garbage about the Kardassians, or Paris Hilton, or if you want to, you know, review the latest Avengers movie, that stuff’s all okay. But as soon as you want to have an actual conversation…it’s turning into the corporate world. The corporation is taking over the entire world. These speech guidelines that you’re expected to obey at work are becoming the standards for everyone everywhere.”
As things stand, I will not be able to upload any videos for at least another week, and even then I may be restricted by length; we’ll see. I’m sure that eventually my channel will be re-instated in full, but unless this situation is corrected swiftly, and I receive a personal apology from one of the content managers at YouTube, there is a takeaway lesson from all of this which cannot be ignored:
The sword of Damocles is hanging over anyone who wants to discuss anything of import.
Respond accordingly. Perhaps YouTube will come out and cry Mea Culpa!, as they should, and we can go back to trusting them to archive and broadcast our speech; but I doubt that will happen. It’s time for all of us to begin considering alternative modes of communication; to prepare to switch to a service which doesn’t embrace censorious practices.
As for me; I’m not going anywhere. I’ll host my own videos off of this website if need me. And to all of the fascist cunts out there who want to silence the opposition, I’ve only got one thing to say:
You can’t stop the signal.
Postscript: The Drudge Report cites Wikileaks evidence showing that YouTube and Facebook were censoring videos about Benghazi back in 2012, at the request of the Obama Administration. Do you people want transparency or not?