YouTube games are a mess thanks to new obscenity policy

Swearing on YouTube has become a challenge.

in November, YouTube updated the profanity policy in its advertising guidelines, which further restricts what users can or cannot say in a video. Now, all kinds of swear words are “treated equally” instead of being considered at varying degrees of “severity”. Videos with profanity in the thumbnail, title, or first seven seconds may have monetization disabled. (Under this policy, “hell” and “damn” are no longer considered vulgar.)

This week, game creators said they were affected by the policy because new and old videos — including videos posted before the new policy was enacted — were marked as commercially available. “limited” ad revenue. The videos were monetized off for something as simple as swear words in the first few seconds. And YouTube’s top creators are questioning the platform’s viability, thanks to this new policy and its censorship.

YouTube’s updated profanity policy was exposed Sunday when YouTube game creator Daniel Condren or RTGame created a video of his experience with it. In the video, the creator says that YouTube has flagged a compilation of his best clips from 2022, limiting its ability to generate ad revenue. YouTube also marks it as “age-restricted,” meaning that only people with age-authenticated YouTube accounts, which require a government ID, can watch the video. Daniel said this reduces the number of views the video gets and makes it harder for him to monetize it.

Condren initially hoped that the limited ad revenue and age-restriction designation would be removed after someone from YouTube support reviewed his video. YouTube uses a combination of people and machine learning to remove content that violates its policies as quickly as possible. If a user, like Condren, thinks there was a mistake after the initial strike, they can ask a real person to review the content and see if it complies with the guidelines. Condren created his compilation using previously published videos that YouTube didn’t mark any restrictions on, so he thought the problem could be solved. It’s also not the first time he’s interacted with YouTube support. When one of Condren’s videos was flagged, he resolved the issue a year ago after a YouTube employee reviewed the video.

However, his approach seems to backfire this time. After he reported the issue by asking for help on Twitter, another video was marked as age-restricted and several others had monetization disabled. After someone from YouTube support reviewed the videos, YouTube stayed where it was, explained Daniel as he offered a screenshot from a support email. His video about popular horror game Quarry now violates the platform’s violent and objectionable content guidelines, thus making it age-restrictive. Other videos have been marked for limited monetization due to the new swearing policy.

“Really sad haha. Because I asked YouTube for help recovering my restricted video [and] I had dozens of more restrictions. I love making videos on YouTube but this really shows that any success on the platform can disappear at will,” Condren told Polygon via email.

Polygon has reached out to YouTube for comment and will update the story with a response.

Hackett's Quarry camp counselors hang out around the campfire

An image from the horror game Quarry.
Image: Supermassive game/2K

Content creator frustration has peaked. It’s not just about swearing or the fact that monetization disabling may apply retroactively to videos posted before those restrictions went into effect. That is specifics of the policy. People can still technically swear. YouTube policy says The “occasionally use of profanity” will not “necessarily” make the video “unfit for promotion”, as in the case of music videos. But these exceptions can make swearing seem like just a matter of jumping through the right hoop.

Some creators are testing these limits. In a short video titled “youtube run by idiots,” voice actor and comedy game creator SungWon Cho, better known as ProZD, notes the difference in constantly There is a lack of censorship for hateful content on the platform, while swearing is increasingly censored. (Cho has previously appeared in Polygon video content.) In his video, after crossing the 15-second mark, he says, “Thank you YouTube, you damn donkeys,” and then adds, “What a smart policy. Not made by a bunch of idiots.” According to a follow-up video, the first video was not de-monetized.

“It was incredibly frustrating and it encouraged me to keep planning for a future where YouTube is no longer a part of my life. When sudden policy changes can dramatically affect your livelihood right away, you realize how unsustainable this career is in the long run,” Cho told Polygon via email.

To add insult to injury, the creators described poor communication from YouTube support. According to Condren, YouTube did not notify him that his videos had been flagged. He found out by sitting at his desk and periodically hitting refresh on his YouTube account page, checking for changes to the video’s ad revenue status. “I have spent hundreds of hours of my life on this content. I’m really proud of it. I’ve always dreamed of becoming an entertainer and doing this. And now I’m sitting here, watching part of my livelihood disappear. No notification. Unobtrusive,” he says in the video.

As a result, Condren has reconsidered its relationship with the platform. “I feel it’s more important than ever to diversify my content across channels like Twitch. There is very little security on YouTube where policies on what is allowed and what is not allowed can be changed and retroactive,” he told Polygon.

As for what viewers can do, Cho said it goes back to supporting your creators in other ways.

“If you’re a fan of anyone on YouTube, support them with more than just views. In fact, subscribe to them, share their videos, interact with them, follow them on other social media. It’s the best way to make sure you keep watching more videos made by the creators you love.”

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