I Cannot Make Any Sense Out of YouTube’s Policies

It’s only fair to wonder who is making the decisions and how are these decisions being made.

By Michael Brown Published on July 18, 2018

Many of you have taken an interest in our ministry’s experience on YouTube, where on one day, about 900 of our videos were demonetized. Since then, we have seen some videos demonetized, others with similar content approved, and one singled out for warning. Is there any rhyme or reason to what is happening? If so, it is not discernible.

To illustrate just how random YouTube’s policies appear to be, here’s a vary partial list of AskDrBrown videos that were marked as “Not suitable for most advertisers” and are awaiting manual review.

Now, to be candid, I’m tempted to add sarcastic commentary to each title. (As in, “Oh yes! This is a highly offensive video! Of course, this is not suitable for all advertisers.”) But that would quickly become redundant, as you’ll see. Sarcasm would actually be overkill.

So, here are just a few of our videos that were demonetized and are currently awaiting review. Feel free to add your own sarcastic commentary.

  • The Spirit Is Moving, But Are We Ready?
  • Answering Your Toughest Facebook Questions
  • Debunking Contemporary Heresies
  • You Bring the Questions, We Bring the Answers
  • Dr. Brown Debates Dr. Theodore Zachariades on the Gifts of the Spirit
  • The Real Messiah (Radio Broadcast)
  • Let’s Dig Into the Word!
  • Here’s Some Good News

Oh, what controversial videos!

And remember. This is just a tiny sampling of videos that were flagged.

Arbitrary Decisions?

This raises one simple question: On what basis did YouTube mark these as unsuitable for most advertisers?

How in the world is a radio broadcast titled, “You Bring the Questions, We Bring the Answers” marked unsuitable? And why are some videos with almost the exact same names and content flagged while others are not?

Because of some technical issues, we have one video up twice, with virtually the same title (“Who Are the Lost Tribes of Israel?”). One of them was flagged; the other was not. And we’re talking about the identical video. Why?

Despite our frustrations with YouTube and other left-leaning social media platforms, the light of the gospel will shine no matter how much others try to dim it.

You may recall the controversy surrounding our video Can You Be Gay and Christian?, which went viral on LGBT YouTube channels. The backlash against it was so great that I asked, “Will YouTube Block the Bible?

We tracked this video’s status on YouTube and discovered that: 1) it was still monetized (meaning, deemed suitable for most advertisers) on May 4, after the first few thousand views; 2) it was demonetized on May 5, at which time we requested a review; 3) on May 8, without explanation, it was monetized again, staying that way as it surpassed 100,000 views; then, 4) it was confirmed as unsuitable by manual review on June 15.

Talk about inconsistency or even double-mindedness. We have never had things go back and forth so many times.

It’s only fair to wonder who is making the decisions and how are these decisions being made. Is everything totally arbitrary? Does it come down to the opinion of the individual who does the review?

It Doesn’t Make Sense

We were also informed by YouTube/Google that we would not be allowed to advertise the “Can You Be Gay and Christian?” video any longer, despite the fact that: 1) it is thoroughly biblical in content; 2) it is gracious in tone; 3) it does not engage in hateful speech; 4) it reflects the historic beliefs of Judaism and Christianity.

Yet earlier this month, we were informed that my interview with an ex-gay pastor, “A Powerful Ex-Gay Testimony,” was deemed suitable for most advertisers after manual review. What?

If anything, this testimony video is more controversial than “Can You Be Gay and Christian?,” yet the latter has been demonetized, and we cannot even pay YouTube to advertise it, while the former has been approved.

Is it possible that we have critics who complain about some of our videos, causing YouTube to flag them? I’m sure we do have plenty such critics. But that doesn’t explain why they attack some videos and ignore others. Plus, YouTube certainly must recognize when persistent critics continue to attack the same person or group. It’s obvious their criticisms should not be treated as valid.

Light Overcomes Darkness

So, what do we do with all these inconsistencies? We keep putting out the truth. We keep producing new, quality videos. We keep doing what’s right. And we keep pushing back and calling for equity.

As long as the platform is there, we will use it. And should some new and better platforms emerge, we will use those as well.

Help us champion truth, freedom, limited government and human dignity. Support The Stream »

This much I know for sure. Despite our frustrations with YouTube and other left-leaning social media platforms, the light of the gospel will shine no matter how much others try to dim it. Light always overcomes darkness.

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  • Paul

    Here’s a thought, stop using Youtube and worrying about how much money you can earn from them.

    • Michael L Brown

      Actually, sir, we use YouTube to get our message out for free to the maximum audience. Any funds that come in, which are minimal, are used to produce more free material for the masses.

      • Paul

        The fact that demonetization started this suggests otherwise, but regardless the ongoing usage of youtube simply helps to grow, empower and enrich the very people who are censoring your message.

        • Jim

          If you have a better idea then ler’s hear it.

          • Paul

            he can post all his vids on his own website askdrbrown(dot)org. No need for youtube.

          • Michael L Brown

            Paul, we do post all our videos on our own website. We post them in as many places as possible, and our goal is always the same: reach the maximum number of people with the message, without charge. We simply call on YouTube to be consistent and ethical.

          • Paul

            “We simply call on YouTube to be consistent and ethical”

            They have been neither for a very long time.

          • Paul

            I took a look at your website via my laptop and yes your videos are on your website, well sort of. Every one I sampled was actually a link to your youtube videos, they are not hosted at your site. Has their censoring efforts impacted your own website yet? It is easy to get hooked on their free hosting and ad revenue sharing, but you’re giving control of your content to people who have repeatedly demonstrated hostility to you and your message. Break the chains that bind you, host the vids yourself or work with another vid hosting company. I’m not a wordpress expert, but take a look at these articles, may give you some ideas premium.wpmudev(DOT)org/blog/best-business-video-hosting-sites/#compared and http://www.nimbusthemes(DOT)com/best-video-hosting-options-wordpress/

          • Starlord616

            I agree about your articles position. It is something that people from every political position have complained about.

        • Craig M

          I think it’s revealing that you’re so quick to ascribe base motivations to a religious group, then go even further to insist that you know the man’s deep motivations better than he himself does. And what would be wrong with a group trying to raise a little money to support its mission and recoup some of the costs of making the videos? If a church or school has a bake sale, do you call them greedy capitalists?

          Anyway, I’m wondering if being monetized has an effect on a video’s ranking, getting suggested, its visibility, and things like that. I have no idea, but it’s possible, which would mean that being downgraded like this goes beyond just whether you make money, and is a soft way to sideline a video. Not that I’m a conspiracy theorist or anything — ’cause I know they’re always out to get conspiracy theorists…

          • Paul

            This goes way back to when this all started. I never heard anything from Michael about youtube censorship until he got hit by the demonetization. If I’m wrong about that I’d like to know. That was followed by asking for donations to make up for the loss of revenue. This is found in old articles here, no time right now to dig that up.

          • Craig M

            Well, he’s not talking about out and out censorship here, and just based on what you’re saying about his earlier requests for donations, he wasn’t talking about it there either – though I haven’t read those myself. I’ve just dropped in, and only know what I’m reading here.

            But even based on what you yourself are saying about earlier posts, he only started talking about the demonetization problem — when? When it started to happen. Where’s the nefarious ulterior motive there? What are you saying was happening before that, which he should have been complaining about earlier, proving in your mind that he’s nothing but a money-grubbing bottom-feeder? And again, what’s wrong with asking for donations? If you know a place where he can get things like video cameras, computers, editing software, etc. for free, I’m sure he’ll be all ears.

            You seem to think that if there’s any mention or even thought of the money necessary to do these things, everything he does is therefore invalid and his motives are impure.

            I’m not even defending Michael personally, or what he does. I don’t know the guy. I don’t know anything about him. He could be everything you say he is. I have no idea. I just don’t see any basis for your claim. *You* sure haven’t shown one. And you don’t have time to. Got it.

            I’d like to find a way to monetize every time someone made a vague assertion, accusation, denunciation, or slur on a discussion forum, then got up on their high horse and said, “I don’t have time to research this for you! You can Google it yourself!” I’d be a rich money-grubbing capitalist by now. What a huge copout. This is nothing but drive-by character assassination by someone with a lazy mind and a sense of entitlement.

            You’re the one making the accusation, which makes it YOUR responsibility to back it up. Nobody came to you and asked you for anything. You chose to come here and make accusations, and now you own it. So present your facts and make an intelligent argument that proves your case. Or go home.

            I’m imagining you in college or high school, handing in papers full of statements like, “This is a terrible book, and the author is an idiot,” or, “Capitalism is the worst economic system in history.” Followed by a note to the teacher: “I don’t have time to do your research for you! I can’t be expected to think clearly, make an intelligent argument, and back up my statements! How dare you! You can look it up yourself!”

            Come to think of it, these days that would probably earn you an A. Because your self-esteem might be disempowered otherwise.

          • Paul

            “*You* sure haven’t shown one. And you don’t have time to. Got it.”

            Sorry but helping my father following his stroke is more important than filtering back through Michaels articles here. If you can’t understand that then I don’t know how to help you.

          • Paul

            Here’s where it all started that I can find in August ’17 stream(dot)org/youtube-just-demonetized-hundreds-videos/

            again in Oct stream(dot)org/youtube-video-really-unsuitable-viewers-18/

            The money requests ramped up a month later stream(dot)org/help-us-push-back-youtubes-unfair-business-tactics/

            As for Censorship being Michaels top priority, in an Oct ’17 comment Michael says “Again, the first concern is censorship; the second concern is unethical restricting of ad revenue funds.”

            As for the rest of your drivel about my character, I hope it made you fell better about yourself.

          • Craig M

            Sorry if I was intemperate and made assumptions. But I would still suggest that it’s not 100% responsible to cast public aspersions on a person, then leave backing them up on the back burner until you get around to it. Sorry to hear about your Dad. Mine died the day before yesterday at 93.

          • Paul

            Apology accepted, and I’m sorry for your own loss.

          • Craig M

            There is absolutely no evidence in either of these articles for your claim that Michael saw censorship going on and said nothing until the revenue was affected. None whatsoever. The fact that the word “censorship” appears in the articles seems to be the sole basis for the fantasy you’re spinning here.

            He also makes absolutely no appeals for donations in those articles or this one. You may be confused by the request for donations to The Stream website itself, which it inserts into *every* article on the site, though it puzzles me how you could make that mistake if you were paying attention at all.

            I’ll assume you’re not engaging in a deliberately dishonest smear campaign, but simply suffer from an unwillingness to take the time to read carefully and think. It’s apparent that you’re biased against Christians and eager to jump to conclusions that confirm your bias, without being too interested in whether you got it right. Maybe you hope that nobody else will be too interested in getting to the facts, and your mud will stick, so you can pat yourself on the back for another good day’s trolling.

          • Paul

            I already provided you the direct quote from comments where Michael says “Again, the first concern is censorship; the second concern is unethical restricting of ad revenue funds.” Those are his stated priorities here, censorship and restricted ad revenue.

            As for soliciting donations in direct response to the yourube demonetization, at the end of the Sept 2017 article we read: “Since I first posted the story of YouTube’s demonetizing of our videos, causing a drop in our YouTube income of more than 70 percent (which is something we feel as a modest, not-for-profit ministry), many have asked what they can do to help. To stand with us, click here, and thanks so much for your solidarity and support.”

            The “click here” goes to his gofundme page seeking donations towards his goal of $40,000 at gofundme(DOT)com/askdrbrownstudio

            No, I’m not confused, I’m providing direct quotes and links. I’m not the one here who needs to pay closer attention.

          • Paul

            My earlier reply is now stuck in the infinite stream approval queue so I’ll repeat myself:

            I already provided you the direct quote from comments where Michael says “Again, the first concern is censorship; the second concern is unethical restricting of ad revenue funds.” Those are his stated priorities here, censorship and restricted ad revenue.

            As for soliciting donations in direct response to the yourube demonetization, at the end of the Sept 2017 article we read: “Since I first posted the story of YouTube’s demonetizing of our videos, causing a drop in our YouTube income of more than 70 percent (which is something we feel as a modest, not-for-profit ministry), many have asked what they can do to help. To stand with us, click here, and thanks so much for your solidarity and support.”

            The “click here” goes to his gofundme page seeking donations towards his goal of $40,000 at gofundme(DOT)com/askdrbrownstudio

            That article entitled “Help Us Push Back Against YouTube’s Unfair Business Tactics” is basically rehashing his greivances with youtube with a lot more examples, but the only action item to help push back is send in a donation to hopefully make up for the lost revenue. No petition to sign, no person or office at youtube to contact, no youtube boycott, just send Michael some money. Somehow that is pushing back against youtube.

            No, I’m not confused, I’m providing direct quotes and links. I’m not the one here who needs to pay closer attention.

  • Craig M

    Isn’t it for an advertiser to decide whether a particular video is appropriate for them to advertise on? (And, more importantly, for you to decide whether an advertiser is appropriate for you?) Why does YouTube have to play nanny on their behalf? This is a smokescreen for them imposing their own political and “moral” biases.

    “And why are some videos with almost the exact same names and content flagged while others are not?” Obviously because it depends on the individual biases of particular reviewers, showing that they have no well-defined policy, only vague subjective concepts like “hate speech,” which to the left of course means “anything we disagree with.” You know, the left – the people who are always at the ready to screech “Freedom of Speech!” at the drop of a hat.

    • Paul

      Youtube has been doing this for a very long time, and it will only get worse. As I said in another comment, the ongoing usage of youtube simply helps to grow, empower and enrich the very people who are censoring the message Michael wants to get out. Why feed the beast?

      • john appleseed

        LiveLink is YouTube’s closest competitor, but it only has about 1% of the content, and as far as I can tell is also leftist.
        So where do we go?

        • Paul

          Further down in these comments I gave Michael some more options to look at. There is also the option to host your videos but often people opt to use a service so they don’t have to manage their own bandwidth.

  • Jay Champagne

    Many, MANY YouTube content creators have routinely criticized the platform for the inconsistency and lack of transparency when it comes to monetization and promotion of content. I’m sure SOME of it is due to ideology, but MOST of it is simple stupidity.

  • m-nj

    Another youtuber named On Point Preparedness recently pointed out that the speech in every video that gets uploaded is immediately transcribed. So it really doesn’t matter what the title of the video is. The algorithm is screening the actual transcript for trigger words and flagging/warning based on the results.

  • tz1

    Pot calling the kettle black.
    I cannot make any sense of the Stream comment policy.
    “Hold on, this is waiting to be approved by The Stream”.
    They never seem to be approved.
    I can’t do links.
    But even if I remove links, and have no profanity, your censor bot won’t approve it, WON’T SAY WHY, and whatever manual process never seems to happen.
    If your own rules are as Kafkaesque as You Tube, on what basis do you criticize?

    • Paul

      I gotta admit you make an interesting point. But I doubt Michael is responsible for Stream administration and comment policy. I too have had comments stuck in limbo with no understanding why..no links, no profanity, odd.

      • tz1

        I think he is one of the people who run the site or are in CEO like positons. I may be wrong. But in any case justice is to treat equal things equally.

        • Paul

          Funny, I just had a comment in this thread end up in the black hole of approval.

        • Bryan

          I’m not even sure he’s a moderator for the the Stream’s comment sections. He runs his own ministry, separate from the stream. Some of his work is published here (and probably other places) but most is published on his own site.
          I’ve had comments end up in the ether of the filters and it is frustrating. Mine are usually filtered, as far as I can tell, because of a lack of brevity. They also filter if you try to post the same thing more than once.
          I think I can understand Dr. Brown’s frustration as well. If you are conscientious to follow the rules but then the rules either change or are applied in a haphazard fashion, it’s extremely frustrating. It seems to me that even if something isn’t about the money, it can be necessary to call foul when the rules aren’t being followed fairly, not to get the money, but, in this case, to get the message out that you’re trying to get out.
          I agree with Paul that finding another platform than YouTube should become a priority, but until one is created or gains popularity, YouTube is still a platform that should be utilized as best as possible.

        • john appleseed

          Dr Brown is no more responsible for the way The Stream is run than he is for the way YouTube is run.
          So your ‘pot/kettle’ comparison doesn’t work.
          But your point about the comment ‘black hole’ is valid.
          I believe James Robison is the founder of The Stream, BTW.

          • Paul

            “I believe James Robison is the founder of The Stream, BTW.”

            Yes, perhaps with other folks as well, not sure of the whole team. Looking at the Stream donations page, stream(DOT)org/donate/ any Stream donations go to LIFE Outreach International, lifetoday(DOT)org/ which I think is headed by James and here is some financial data as well they link to http://www.ecfa(DOT)org/MemberProfile.aspx?ID=12344 James is probably a pretty busy man, doubt he is involved in the day to day here though.

    • Craig M

      Same here. And I agree that Michael isn’t responsible for the site’s policies, so the “pot/kettle” thing is definitely unfair. The site probably doesn’t have enough people to review things and sometimes site owners aren’t even aware of all the features of the site and don’t even know to check. I had a comment flagged as potential spam, as far as I could tell because there were a few exclamation marks and an “OMG.” ☺ I reworded it a little and reposted and it sailed right through.

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