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YouTube Will Pull Ads From Videos That Are ‘Incendiary,’ Demeaning or Show Kids’ Characters Acting Inappropriately

Variety logo Variety 6/1/2017 Todd Spangler
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YouTube has updated and expanded its guidelines for creators on what kinds of content are ineligible for advertising, aiming to provide more clarity on what videos it will “demonetize.”

The move comes after a global backlash among marketers earlier this year, in which several hundred advertisers froze spending on YouTube after it was revealed that their spots were appearing in videos espousing hateful rhetoric. After Google cracked down on ads being served in offensive videos, creators expressed concern about losing revenue and have asked for more guidance on what’s not kosher.

Among the changes: Content that portrays “family entertainment characters” like Mickey Mouse or Ronald McDonald engaged in “violent, sexual, vile, or otherwise inappropriate behavior” will violate YouTube’s advertiser-friendly guidelines.

In addition, YouTube said that it will not serve ads in “incendiary and demeaning content,” which it defines as videos that are “gratuitously incendiary, inflammatory, or demeaning.”

The video giant also clarified that videos deemed “hateful” — material already banned under YouTube’s community guidelines — will not be eligible for advertising. YouTube describes that category as content “that promotes discrimination or disparages or humiliates an individual or group of people on the basis of the individual’s or group’s race, ethnicity, or ethnic origin, nationality, religion, disability, age, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or other characteristic associated with systematic discrimination or marginalization.”

An important point is that YouTube will still allow certain kinds of content that violate the advertiser-friendly rules to remain on the platform, as long as it complies with the overall terms of service and community guidelines.

“While it’s not possible for us to cover every video scenario, we hope this additional information will provide you with more insight into the types of content that brands have told us they don’t want to advertise against and help you to make more informed content decisions,” Ariel Bardin, VP of product management at YouTube, wrote in a blog post outlining the new guidelines. “We know our systems aren’t perfect and we’re also working to further improve your ability to appeal impacted videos.”

After YouTube last fall began alerting creators when their videos ran afoul of the advertising guidelines — which were already in place — some became irate and accused the Google-owned service of employing a form of censorship. The brouhaha resulted in a trending Twitter hashtag, #YouTubeisoverparty.

In its update Thursday to the advertising-friendly content guidelines, YouTube has added more nuanced explanations for what is disallowed. For example, it previously said videos that may be demonetized if they include “inappropriate language, including harassment, profanity and vulgar language.” While inappropriate language is still verboten, the latest guidelines add that “Occasional use of profanity won’t necessarily result in your video being ineligible for advertising, but context matters.”

Along with the updated guidelines, YouTube is launching a new course in its Creator Academy to provide additional detail “around making your content appealing for a broad range of advertisers, if that is your goal,” Bardin wrote.

Bardin added that even if a video is approved for advertising, “what’s right for one brand may not be right for another.” For example, he noted, a home cleaning brand and a beer brand “will likely choose to target very different audiences.”

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