If you’re part of the growing chorus of folks around the world looking for ways to support the Black Lives Matter movement, there’s no shortage of ways to do it. You can donate to the Minnesota Freedom Fund! You can donate to a bail fund network! You can donate to an organization like the NAACP or the Southern Poverty Law Center! But what you can’t do—at least according to YouTube—is pull those funds from advertising on the platform.
As first reported by Variety, the video giant has begun pulling videos created to drum up ad revenue for donations to these organizations (and others) for folks that might not be able to open their wallets for the same reason. As charitable as the idea is, it turns out that some of these videos—which encouraged extra clicks or views to boost the ad dollars a creator might get and, thus, might be able to donate—broke a few of YouTube’s own policies.
Though YouTube didn’t respond to our request for comment earlier this week, when we asked about the trend of video-based donations, the company did release a statement on its support forum addressing its trend of knocking these donations down:
While you can take any ad revenue you earn from organic traffic and donate it, some of these videos encourage people to repeatedly watch the video for ad views and/or repeatedly click on the ads in the video, which artificially drives up the video’s watch time and ad metrics – this is against YouTube’s Policies. We’re seeing this encouragement in video titles, descriptions, and in the video content itself, none of which is allowed. If your video encourages this behavior, it will be removed from YouTube, you won’t be paid for the views and clicks, and advertisers will not be charged.
Instead of bumping up these engagement metrics, the company suggests adding a fundraising button to the tail-end of a video or linking to their charitable org of choice off-site. The obvious issue here is that, well, these donations cost money, while drumming up ad revenue can be done for the low, low cost of free. That was the appeal of so many of these videos, some of which generated millions of views a pop over the past week. Earnings per creator vary, but based on the average earnings per page view—just under $20 per every thousand views—could translate into hundreds, if not thousands of readily donate-able dollars.
It’s easy to see YouTube as the villain here, but it’s also easy to see them without a lot of wiggle room. For years, the platform’s struggled with not-so-giving creators pulling similar stunts—driving unearned engagement and clicks—for not-so-charitable reasons. And while YouTube’s gotten better at stomping out these scammers, there’s still something of a thriving market for folks seeking to bump up their traffic, and just as many folks willing to send them that traffic for cheap—through legitimate means or otherwise.
That said, as Variety points out, there are still several videos, like this hip-hop livestream, that YouTube has left standing (at least for now). And the company did acknowledge the efforts of the fundraisers, in part, by creating a $100 million fund for “amplifying and developing the voices of Black creators and artists and their stories,” per the company’s CEO, Susan Wojcicki. That said, the company’s made it clear that we shouldn’t be dodging their TOS—even in the name of racial justice.