Study: YouTube channels with “problematic” content are 12% more likely to use alternative forms of monetization

When events like the Canadian truck convoy protests (pictured above), the COVID-19 pandemic, and the January 6 insurrection occur, misinformation spreads across the social web. During these times, YouTube relies on executive orders such as its Sensitive Events Policy and its Limit Content Policy, which allow it to demonetize videos that may make misleading claims.

Demonetization is (in theory) one of the most powerful tools in YouTube’s arsenal. After all, if bad actors can’t make money off videos, they can’t fund new ones, can they?

It is not that simple. New research from Cornell Technology details the lucrative strategies used by creators of “problematic” content. Compared to their rule-abiding counterparts, these videographers are 12% more likely to use revenue streams outside of the YouTube Partner Program, including merchandise, affiliate programs, and fan-funding services like Patreon.

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Cornell Tech examined the monetization habits of 130,000 YouTube channels. The first takeaway is simple: Off-YouTube revenue streams are growing in popularity. In 2008, only 2.7% of channels in the sample used “alternative monetization”. Of course, at that time, platforms like Patreon and Spring didn’t exist yet. By 2018, 20% of channels surveyed had added non-YouTube revenue streams. Now, in 2022, that figure is up to 61%. The steady stream of demonetizations since the 2017 Adpocalyse has certainly contributed to this upward trend.

People whose videos are regularly demonetized by YouTube are more likely to use these “alternative” sources of income. According to the study, 68% of channels making “problematic” content – which includes alt-right and conspiracy videos – have transformed alternative monetization, compared to 56% among the strings that do not fall into this category.

Protocol mentioned the case of turd throwing monkey, which is (shockingly) frequently demonetized on YouTube due to the risky nature of its content. When he announced he was “leaving YouTube” in 2020, he shared links in the video’s description that led to hosting platform BitChute, chat server company Discord, and Patreon. . According to the study, this channel earns between $900 and $4,000 per month on Patreon.

This monthly gross is a small potato compared to some of the problematic channels that use Patreon. The study noted that there are at least a dozen such channels carrying six digits the; the fan-funding platform announced plans to crack down on QAnon in a 2020 blog post.

“But wait!” I hear you say, “Isn’t that a good thing? Shouldn’t it be easy and profitable for creators to increase their revenue beyond YouTube ads? »

You are not wrong. An informed YouTube spokesperson fast business that there are 10 different ways to monetize on YouTube, with new features being added all the time. No one should suggest that this preponderance of fundraising options is anything but a net positive for the creator community.

Instead, the Cornell Tech study suggests that revoking these monetization privileges must be a coordinated effort if Internet bad actors are to be sorted out. “In general, alternative monetization is a good thing,” said Cornell Tech researcher Yiqing Hua. Protocol. “But if YouTube really wants this demonetization policy to work, it should work with other alternative monetization service providers.”

The “Let’s all work together” model of demonization is nice in theory, but it’s turned upside down if even a single platform panders to the financial needs of influencers who stir up scum. In truth, the root of this problem runs deeper than any of these individual companies. Unless we decide to disconnect from the internet forever, bad actors will find a site where they can spread their ill-informed views.

Raymond T. Helms