Tamimi’s focus on winning attention over profit is no different than other YouTube creators, says Bing Chen, who once led global creator initiatives at YouTube. “Revenue is of course an incentive, but fame is more so,” says Chen, who now develops and invests in creators through his company AU Holdings.
You don’t need a fancy camera or editing to draw an audience. When Israeli professors analyzed about 340 TikTok videos from 2021 related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict they found pro-Israeli videos had higher production values but received lower engagement. They argued that viewers preferred Palestinian content because public sentiment tends to favor those seen as victims.
At a time of widespread suffering now on both sides of the border and an intense period of global attention on the region, Palestinian channels like Tamimi’s could be drawing record engagement and revenue—money that could, one day, make rebuilding easier.
Instead, Tamimi has withdrawn from YouTube. He started posting only infrequently after his village stopped organizing weekly protests around 2018 and with no income available feels no loyalty to the Google service. When an incident flares up, he is now more likely to livestream on Meta’s Facebook, where he draws thousands of viewers. “YouTube is like an archive,” he says, not a place to share new content.
YouTube’s revenue program for creators, known as YPP, launched in 2007 and pioneered the concept of a major social media platform turning amateur stardom into a well-paying job. It now has competition from Meta, X, and TikTok—which also don’t offer their programs to people in Palestinian territories—but remains the leader in influence and geographic reach.
Despite YouTube’s dominant position, WIRED’s review found that YPP doesn’t let in creators from over a quarter of the world’s 100 most populous countries, most of them in Africa. It welcomes people from many countries with smaller populations than the Palestinian territories, where, combined, an estimated 5 million people reside. Creators from Iraq and Yemen, also Arabic-speaking places troubled by conflict, are listed as supported.
Chen, who helped develop YPP while working at YouTube, believes that the platform’s leaders may want to avoid funding creators whose content puts them at risk from local authorities, and also worry that language barriers or limited staffing could make it difficult to provide suitable customer service.