Google-owned YouTube Thursday garnered negative media attention after it changed its verification process, causing some creators to lose their badges.
“YouTube said it was moving beyond subscriber counts to determine whether a channel should be verified,” Engadget said. “Instead of surpassing 100,000 subscribers (a threshold creators could game the system to reach), the service will take authenticity and prominence into account when choosing which channels to verify. In essence, it’s adopting the approach of many other social platforms, which verify people if there’s a solid chance they may be impersonated, or if there’s a reasonable possibility they’ll be confused with someone else.”
Some prominent YouTubers were shocked to learn that they had lost their coveted badges, causing fierce backlash. In response to that backlash, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki said that verified accounts would be able to keep their badges without having to reapply, much to the relief of those creators. She also apologized on Twitter.
“To our creators & users–I’m sorry for the frustration & hurt that we caused with our new approach to verification. While trying to make improvements, we missed the mark. As I write this, we’re working to address your concerns & we’ll have more updates soon,” she said.
The blunder isn’t just embarrassing on behalf of a company that makes all of its money from its creators – and most of it from those with more than 100,000 subscribers. It caused many YouTubers who make a living by creating videos financial uncertainty.
But YouTube isn’t fully out of the woods yet. Many prominent YouTubers make money not only from channel monetization, but also from sponsorship deals with brands. Loss of verification is a certainty going forward, as YouTube plans to move away from the badge and towards a system that will highlight popular channels. That could result in the loss of sponsorship and revenue for some creators.
YouTube faced a prominent showdown with one of its most prominent creators, conservative Steven Crowder, earlier this year.
The drama began when openly gay former Vox “journalist” Carlos Maza started whining publicly that Crowder had made fun of him on his channel. Maza wanted YouTube to permanently ban Crowder, but Crowder’s channel draws a lot of viewers, and thus generates a good deal of revenue for the tech giant. In the end, Maza lost his crusade. After a brief period of demonetization during which Crowder was forced to remove links to his merchandise store where he sells a t-shirt that says “Socialism Is For Fags,” YouTube re-monetized his channel. Maza continued to whine, and ended up leaving Vox under murky circumstances a few months later.
For now, verified YouTube creators are safe. But as many conservatives who rely on Big Tech for financial support have learned, the Silicon Valley titans cannot be trusted as a revenue source forever.
Just this week, YouTube banned Right Side Broadcasting Network from live streaming. The company was known for being the only source for full live streams of President Donald J. Trump’s rallies. It generated most of its revenue from user donations while live streaming the events, and also did a great public service for Trump supporters: covered the rallies while cable news ignored them.