It used to be the dream of many young people to become famous simply by posting a video to YouTube. When any video could go viral, launching an amatuer videographer and their buddies into stardom, hope was high in the community, and many video channels were beginning to make a name for themselves.
Recently, however, the YouTube dream has become like a nightmare for those who have already devoted their lives to it; creators who are employed by the YouTube Partnership Program are straining under the recent pressures put on them by the corporation. What used to be the most creatively liberal platform on the internet is being altered by absurd change.
This whole decline in creative freedom began when the Wall Street Journal launched an independent investigation into the YouTuber Felix Kjellberg, more popularly known by his YouTube alias PewDiePie. Without consulting Felix, the WSJ confronted YouTube and Felix’s main partners, forcing them to sever ties with their biggest star for allegedly normalizing Nazi propaganda.
Felix has posted many statements and several videos to his channel stating that how the WSJ conducted their investigation was not only unfair, but an injustice to him. His video to the public, titled “My Response,” was made to directly address the WSJ controversy.
Felix stated that he believes the evidence presented by the WSJ was taken way out of context and meant as an “attack by the media … to decrease my influence.” With a fan base of over 54.5 million subscribers, Felix’s influence is beyond question.
What the WSJ and several other media outlets seem to be missing is that, while they can be potentially offensive, YouTube’s most popular celebrities have an undeniable positive influence. By hosting specialized “livestreams,” Felix and friends raised $1.3 million for the (RED) charity over two days in December 2016.
YouTube gamer Markiplier raised $75,000 for the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance in only three hours.
Regardless, YouTube has revamped a pre-existing safeguard on what content can be accessed by all viewers, a censorship setting for the entirety of their website: Restricted Mode. The recent outcry concerning what content should be, or has already been, censored has been nearly deafening.
YouTube has stated that the Restricted Mode is optional for those who wish to enable it. Unfortunately, when the setting is enabled, hundreds of channels suddenly are rendered invisible due to their lack of “child appropriate” content.
Yes, this is the perfect way for parents to protect their child from accidentally clicking a link that could send them over into the dark web, but YouTube was never a platform centered around creators who wanted to churn out happy fun times for toddlers. YouTube was, and still somewhat is, a place for creative liberty, so it is understandable that several groups feel offended by being unnecessarily censored.
YouTube should have waited to release the Restricted Mode as an optional software to be purchased online or as an app – this way, it would not have damaged reputations as it has, and YouTube could have made a profit by selling it to protective parents.
Instead, YouTube has begun to tighten the noose around the once free-reigning creators on its platform, and ever since the installation of the Restricted Mode, things have only gotten worse.
Potentially offensive or negative content has also now been subject to demonetization by the YouTube corporation; this means, no matter how popular a questionable video is, the channel that uploads it will not receive a cent for it because of its violation of the new regulations aimed at protecting the integrity of sponsors.
Popular YouTubers have labored to produce quality entertainment for their select audiences. Forcing channels to become advertiser- or family-friendly is turning several communities on their heads; genres that once built up channels and their fan bases now must be torn down in order to be more “responsible,” as if to be more deserving of receiving money for what they’ve dedicated their lives to.
It’s plain and simple: Traditional news media is threatened by the influence of the new media. Anyone can figure that out; the reach of technology has far exceeded the doorstep that your Sunday paper rests on.
Nearly all the recent precautions taken by YouTube have been reactionary, panicking over the reluctance of their sponsors to stay due to the unethical exposés and attacks on their celebrities by traditional media. Fans, now more than ever, need to be supporting their favorite channels in any way that they can; if YouTube won’t defend its celebrities, they can.
Frankly, as a journalist, I’m ashamed of the actions of the Wall Street Journal. By launching an aggressive mock investigation, they have become the catalyst to the trashing of livelihoods as YouTube scrambles to cover their prior laxity.
I’m hopeful that YouTube will be able to stop its downward spiral, but the stories and new regulations that have come about in previous months will not be going away anytime soon.
Best of luck, YouTubers.