In the past year, YouTube has become notorious for being at the center of debates on censorship and the ever-present issue surrounding freedom of speech and the lengths to which it should be allowed in the US and elsewhere.
To those who aren't aware or simply don't keep up with YouTube drama, due to a series of events last year involving widely followed content creators that, in many cases, were supported and promoted by YouTube themselves, these creators as well as YouTube employees themselves were brought under fire for, initially, doing nothing to address these issues or at least reprimand those responsible.
In an act of solidarity against the video streaming platform, hundreds of YouTube's largest and most influential advertisers pulled out due to the company's current policy at the time. Soon, content creators saw drastic drops in ad revenue.
In many cases, these changes took place overnight with many YouTubers dubbing the event the "Adpocalypse."
YouTube, realizing the implications of losing all their sponsors and advertisers, quickly adjusted their policy, promising to regulate content to a higher extent and implement a system of demonetization for videos that dealt with sensitive topics, weren't suitable for specific audiences, or could offend specific groups or individuals.
The effects of demonetization, along with a new algorithm which silently promoted content that would make YouTube a more "family friendly" platform, were quickly realized by many. YouTubers noticed decreased channel growth, lack of sponsorship on specific videos, and a smaller amount of views overall.
At its inception, YouTube was created with the intent to be a platform where anyone and everyone around the world could post videos of essentially whatever they wanted. Although blocked altogether in a handful of countries and simply not available in others, the majority of the world is familiar with the platform or have used it for their own benefit. People around the world could post whatever they wanted, whatever they believed, and whatever they thought and not be reprimanded for it.
However, since 2012 YouTube has exploded in popularity and thus demonetization has now been implemented to maintain the platform's large influence and, in many ways, ensure the safety and stability of the business that is YouTube.
Because YouTube is a private company it is not subject to US constitutional rights or laws. This gives them the ability to censor certain content and promote others without facing immediate legal ramifications. Although demonetization and censorship rules in YouTube's new terms of service have greatly reduced videos of pornography, child abuse, and graphic content, the problem arises when these rules, which are vague and extremely unclear, are inadvertently used to censor videos dealing with issues that have to do with politics, current events, and other sensitive topics.
Although it is rare for videos to be directly censored or taken down, the demonetization tactic used by YouTube, which essentially allows videos to remain up on the website but eliminates the ability for content creators to make money off of them, is another way for YouTube to censor its creators.
Despite what you've heard, most dedicated creators on the platform make a meager livelihood off of the money they make from their videos. By taking away the ability from certain channels to make money YouTube is, at the same time, discouraging content of this type and thus censoring it.
In other words, if a creator can post a video about whether Burger King or Wendy's fries are better and get paid for it or post a video discussing the recent missile strikes by the US in Syria and not receive any profit which will be more rewarding and useful to them?
By forcing creators to rebrand their channels to cater to the new "family friendly" atmosphere of the platform, YouTube is openly censoring highly specific and targeted content and undermining the goal it set out to achieve in 2005 which was to create such a platform where people wouldn't be afraid to post whatever they wanted whenever they wanted to do it.