SungWon Cho, also known as ProZD on YouTube, has ended up on YouTube’s demonetization blacklist due to the machine learning algorithm. The voice actor, comedian, and video content creator who has nearly a million subscribers on YouTube alone, is known for making skits poking fun at video games and pop-culture. Well, recently he aired his frustrations at YouTube via Twitter after his videos started getting auto-flagged for demonetization, even the innocuous videos that did not contain profanity or content advertisers might find objectionable.
Cho noticed that completely innocent videos like unboxing snacks were getting auto-flagged once they were uploaded.
— SungWon Cho (ProZD) (@prozdkp) September 22, 2017
Cho angrily addressed the issue with YouTube on Twitter, to which the company responded:
Hi SungWon, appreciate the feedback. The machine is learning every day and with every video, it’ll improve and understand nuances better.
— Team YouTube (@TeamYouTube) September 22, 2017
YouTuber Raz0rfist discovered how the blacklist worked by testing it under a variety of different circumstances, realizing that it was a blacklist after uploading completely random and non-objectionable content that was auto-flagged no matter what was in the video. This was perfectly exemplified when YouTube preemptively censored a live-stream interview with Inside #GamerGate author James Desborough, hours before the interview went live.
Despite YouTube support’s response, however, Cho was still displeased and responded across a series of tweets, stating…
“[…] you acknowledge the machine is still learning, and yet you continue to use it to flag videos first, worry about errors/consequences later. You are using an imperfect machine that is directly fucking up with people’s livelihoods and you think you can just blame the machine.
“Look, if you wanna use a machine, that’s fine. use it to FIND potential flagworthy videos but then USE HUMAN BEINGS TO CHECK THEM FIRST”
The thing is, sometimes YouTube/Google do use humans first. In fact, that’s how Philip DeFranco’s content was flagged for demonetization, after YouTube’s staff manually began checking and demonetizing his videos.
The demonetization blacklist first began rolling out and affecting a lot of politically-oriented channels, many of which were anti-SJW or against Cultural Marxism. Constitutionalist Ron Paul was also targeted and added to the list, along with seemingly innocuous content creators making Rimworld and Destiny 2 content. Even the channel Lazy Game Reviews ended up being added to the blacklist.
Cho wasn’t entirely pleased with the system or the arguments either way, explaining across a number of tweets…
“[…] for people going “well you shouldn’t depend solely on youtube ads anyway” yes, i know, i don’t, but it IS a part of my income. I’m not upset about this auto-flagging for my own financial reasons, i’m doing fine, i’m upset because the system is so unstable and broken and there ARE people who I’m sure REALLY depend on that ad income, and they are getting completely fucked by this imprecise absurd system.”
While some think the AI is malfunctioning, Google seems to be reacting as if it’s doing exactly what it’s supposed to. In fact, for the channels affected by the demonetization apartheid, the company has rolled out a new subscription service for gaming channels, and they plan on introducing the subscription service to non-gaming channels as well.
Now it’s not the end of the world if you do end up on the list. It’s possible to contact YouTube staff and have them review your content manually in order to have the content unflagged. Some have managed to get off the blacklist, but it’s a long and somewhat arduous process for those who have a large channel with a healthy output of videos.