This post is not about language learning, but given that this topic does affect me and many others in the community, this needs to be said.
Last month YouTube announced that any channel that did not acquire BOTH 1,000 subscribers or more and 4,000 hours of watch time in the past year will be demonetized and ineligible to receive ad revenue.
Even if I weren’t affected by this, I believe that this choice is not only harmful but also yes, you read the title correctly, morally wrong.
Before having to have you read several lines of text to find out exactly what is so “morally wrong” about it, I’ll spell it out right now with the following reasons:
- One of YouTube’s reasons for having done this was the fact that most of the channels getting demonetized made fewer than $100 a month. Again, this is a case of ignoring the reality in other areas of the world.
In a poorer community (such as in a developing country), even something like a handful of cents could be the difference between being able to support oneself and having to surrender oneself to life in the army to make ends meet. (Places with features of military rule in place, not also to mention the United States, whose plutocrats increasingly want to make it to become more like a developing country, create poverty so as to drive people “into the system” in desperation. I’ve seen this in many places).
What may be an insignificant amount of money to those who work at YouTube or Google would actually be life-changing in a place like Southeast Asia where currencies can be very weak and prices low by Western standards.
You may not believe me, but even in Myanmar that had what I described as “tear-inducing poverty” (imagine a Buddhist temple in Bagan filled with homeless people with makeshift sleeping bags), a lot of people have smartphones and actively use them. A lot of these people are active on YouTube and some of them are my subscribers who have helped me learn Burmese. They were eligible for the Partner Program with 10,000 views on their channel or more under the old rules, but YouTube’s heartless decision has cut off yet another potential source of income, which may be small by their standards but not by others. Keep in mind that a very big water bottle can be acquired in a place like rural Myanmar for the equivalent of 25-50 cents, if not LESS.
I don’t need a professor to tell me that American corporations don’t really care about the rest of the world or the cultures or people in it unless it is useful for raking in more profit. YouTube has just proved what I already know.
And another moral problem is…
- The 4,000 hour limit not only de-incentivizes animators but also people from small linguistic communities.
Under the 10,000 views quota, channels from smaller countries in the developing world, some of which are very homemade indeed but still charming, could have met the requirements. But if your channel is primarily in Nauruan and you need 240,000 minutes of view time to get monetized, that may be nigh INSURMOUNTABLE given how few people in the world have any knowledge of that language at all.
It seems that even many channels in Scandinavian Languages may sometimes have trouble meeting the 240,000 minutes of view time quota (even though I know many of them that are “safe” under the new rules).
Choice of language or choice of genre shouldn’t be favored in this process or, at least, be taken into account. There’s no way you can judge that Nauruan YouTuber and one who primarily uses English (like myself) to the same standard of viewership or subscribers. It isn’t fair (but capitalism never really wasn’t about fairness anyway).
The new rules may drive people to make channels in global languages for the sake of meeting that time. Again, this is a decision that is morally harmful because it de-incentivizes usage of smaller languages that ALREADY are facing mass extinction.
- I suspect that YouTube’s decision has virtually nothing to do with helping smaller creators or even “weeding out bad actors” at all. I suspect that it is just a pretense for furthering a system in which profits keep on coming in to those at the top, which is the end goal of unfettered capitalism.
Logan Paul, who some believe was responsible for this to begin with, has virtually created a diplomatic incident, if not a series of them, with the “suicide forest” video (not also to mention other incidents of animal cruelty and cultural insensitivity).
Temporary demonetization and being removed from Google Preferred isn’t a suitable enough punishment.
If YouTube were really serious about weeding out bad actors, he should have been permanently knocked off the platform with no hope of returning. But given that his presence on the website is too profitable for them, it won’t happen.
But in this internet world, like in many other areas of the globe, the rules don’t really apply to the powerful, very rich or famous. That’s the message that YouTube has effectively delivered. It’s the one that has been delivered time and time again, especially in the United States. Namely, only the biggest and the best and most powerful matter, and fuck the rest of the world.
YouTube, I doubt you’ll come to read this, but please consider the consequences of your actions and the inequality you may be furthering. You say you care about small creators but your actions speak otherwise. Not also to mention the fact that other possible competition may be capitalizing on your decision to do this, causing a mass exodus that may, in fact, give you a new competitor you never thought coming. (One rule I’ve learned as a business dealer myself is to never make openings for your opponents and that’s PRECISELY what you’ve done with these new rules.) You may be big, but even in today’s world there is no company too big to not be challenged.
You’ve created a great service for me and have brought many glimpses of the world to me. You have a choice now. You can either continue to serve all of us, or the very few at the top for the sake of profit. But you cannot and WILL NOT do both. With this decision you’ve clearly chosen the latter, which is not only a blot on your conscience in making your space more like Cable Television (which has dealt away with the presence of ordinary people for the sake of profit), but a decision that may also be bad, if not fatal, from a business perspective.
I know I’m on the right side of history. But can you say that? And better yet, can your actions demonstrate that? I’ll be waiting.
DISCLAIMER: I would be writing this article anyway even if I weren’t affected by the new rules. Even if I had 100,000,000 subscribers I would still write it. There are some issues brought up in this article that no one else has ever addressed and I thought it would be important for me to write about here. Feel free to let me know your thoughts in the comments!