YouTube has never been very fond of marijuana related videos. But lately, YouTube has been indiscriminately censoring, suspending, or disabling numerous cannabis-related accounts—and for unknown reasons.
For cannabis content creators, automatic replies responding to their appeals and requested information on the reason(s) for their suspension don’t say much.
YouTube channels dedicated to the world of cannabis and its cultivation, which were in no way offensive, believe that this is an injustice. It’s astounding to see that some of most dedicated channels, including world-renowned and respected seedbanks such as Dinafem, Dutch Passion and Zamnesia have slowly been disappearing from YouTube—and we’re sure they were blindsided by this.
The cause of their removal was supposedly for violating YouTube’s policy, terms of service, community rules, for spamming, or for broadcasting misleading practices and content.
But still, many wait for a real and concrete response for the reasoning behind YouTube’s actions. Below, we will look further into this issue and examine whether or not there’s any chance to reestablish what has been lost on this video platform.
Beginning in mid-April, the cannabis community has been feeling the blunt end of YouTube’s moderation with its adjustments on guidelines related to drug content. Apparently, to be considered permissible content, drug use needs to be “contextualized”; in other words, smoking weed on YouTube has to be in service of something educational or entertaining only. This is a very complicated distinction to navigate.
Videos flagged for violating these terms can result in some videos being demonetized, or worse, taken down. An account that receives three strikes and/or flags in a three month time span will result in their account being completely scrapped off of YouTube. This is quite strange, especially considering one could watch YouTube tutorials on making homemade bombs all day if they pleased.
Apparently, in 2017, the video platform was going through what some were calling an "ad-pocalypse" and many cannabis channels started to dissapear.
A scarce reply from YouTube to one of those channels said: “we can’t make ad revenue off of cannabis content and that top advertisers were seeing their ads play before content that was inappropriate and damaging to their brand."
Once the money started leaving, YouTube updated their algorithm to prevent ‘unsuitable’ content from getting ads delivered against their content and the whole system has been crumbling ever since.” Accounts that have been blocked recently include:
At present, the ban doesn’t show any signs of budging, but there is still hope; some parties, including high-profile media outlets, are arguing that this crackdown infringes on freedom of the press. Furthermore, CNN is calling into question the very ethics of YouTube altogether.
While cannabis channels have been demonetized, CNN notes that ads for major brands still appear on extremist conspiracy theory channels that should fall under the same guidelines of “objectionable content”.
For now, many content creators and viewers are switching over to other streaming platforms. Since YouTube was acquired by Google—a company notorious for their lack of personalized customer service, it may just be time for the cannabis community to start supporting other, more progressive video platforms like Vimeo, where there are fewer restrictions on content.
Aside from the overt censorship occurring here, the removal and/or demonetization of cannabis-related content is hurting the livelihood of those who have made businesses and even empires out of their YouTube presence. YouTube hasn't allowed a transitional period for creators to “clean up” their channels, instead simply banning them. Simply put, this is not the way you treat your "partners."
As a juggernaut company, their influence is huge. For them to decide that certain cannabis content is unacceptable casts a dark shadow on cannabis culture at large. With the pervasive nature of violent and sexual content, as well as other drug content, that goes unchecked on YouTube, there needs to be more explicit guidelines for what qualifies as objectionable content, and most importantly—why?
If YouTube is to continue restricting forms of cannabis content, they should at very least incorporate some sort of easy-to-process warning that delineates what content is acceptable to upload, and what’s not.
It doesn’t seem fair to allow videos to accrue hundreds of thousands of views, only to yank them from the site when no harm was intended. For now, it’s a waiting game. Be sure to keep up-to-date on the developments on this issue, and make your voice heard if your own content has been demonetized or taken down.