Today's lesson in digital media: Don't play around with YouTubers and their payday.
Social media was in a frenzy Thursday about apparent changes to how YouTube handles commercials on clips deemed unfriendly to advertising. YouTubers and their fans were incensed, but Google's massive video site said it was simply trying to be more transparent.
A hashtag about the uproar, #YouTubeIsOverParty, has been tweeted more than 174,000 times since it was created 21 hours ago.
YouTube is the biggest place for ad-supported video viewing on the internet. People who post there can collect about 55 percent of revenue generated by ads that run before their clips. For some, those ads are a big moneymaker. That revenue share has been instrumental to YouTube triggering a new generation of stars.
This week, YouTube began rolling out changes to how it notifies its users about "demonetized" videos. YouTube's terms of service outline advertiser-unfriendly content that is disqualified from making money, and it did not change those rules nor alter how it monitors or enforces them, a YouTube representative said. Instead, it made it easier to see at a glance whether any videos were being demonetized in its video management system for creators, and it started shooting an email alert when a clip's ads are removed.
It also created a new appeals process, so if a video is stripped of commercials, the creator has an simpler way to object.
But the change, and confusion about it, sparked outcries from some creators who received alerts this week for videos that were not advertiser friendly, including one star with a giant following.
Philip DeFranco, a veteran YouTube entertainer with 4.5 million subscribers, posted a video Wednesday titled "YouTube Is Shutting Down My Channel and I'm Not Sure What To Do." In it, he said YouTube had blocked advertising from a dozen of his videos, a figure he later updated to about 40. He noted that his most recently blocked clip didn't appear to have objectionable content, except possibly the subject matter he discussed.
"By covering the real, raw news story and not watering it down, I got in trouble," he said on the clip, calling it "censorship with a different name."
Other creators noted similar problems of seemingly inoffensive clips losing their monetization. Melanie Murphy, a beauty and lifestyle video creator, said in an email interview that she couldn't identify anything shocking or offensive in either of her videos that had ads removed. One of the demonetized videos is one of her best earners on Google's site, she said.
"There is no bad language in these videos, nothing inappropriate in the tags, so I'm left with the assumption that the fact that acne is visible in the thumbnails...is off-putting to potential advertisers," she said. "If that's the case, it's very upsetting." She said she is waiting to for a decision on her appeal.
DeFranco didn't respond to messages seeking comment. He later tweeted that he wasn't reassured by YouTube's response. "So before you were just turning off ads and not emailing us?" he posted.
But he also tried to tamp down the furor.