YouTube’s Demonetizing Bot

By: Evan Marshall


One night at the beginning of November, tech reviewer Ben Schmanke published a YouTube video comparing the cameras on the iPhone X, the Samsung S8, and the LG V30. YouTube initially classified the video as suitable for all advertisers, indicated by a green dollar sign icon. When Schmanke woke up the next morning, the classification icon had been changed to a yellow dollar sign, which means the video can only make money from a limited number of advertisers.


Schmanke is just one of several YouTubers who has had issues with YouTube demonetizing or limiting ads on their iPhone X videos in recent weeks. Dylan Hong, who runs a small tech channel, says his video about iPhone X accessories was immediately flagged as a yellow-icon, limited-ad video. He wasn’t really concerned about lost revenue, but he was surprised.


As reported by TechnoBuffalo, YouTube’s algorithm began marking some new iPhone X videos as “unsuitable for advertisers” at the end of last month. Although more imaginative fans theorized that was Google’s way of boycotting Apple, it seems more likely that it was just the latest in a string of issues with ad revenue and algorithms on YouTube.


Even though YouTube acted quickly to fix the issue, YouTubers are still frustrated by the company’s ongoing problems with demonetization and transparency. The main concern from creators seems to be that they don’t understand why particular videos get demonetized, especially when it’s something as seemingly uncontroversial as a phone unboxing. And because YouTube’s algorithm makes decisions immediately and at scale, it can be difficult to figure out what causes a certain video to get flagged.



YouTube suggests that creators upload videos as unlisted or private to check the monetization status before a video goes public, but many creators don’t want to wait when it comes to timely news and reviews.



There may be an interesting future ahead regarding what gets monetized by YouTube and what isn’t. It makes complete sense to demonetize videos regarding criminal activity and controversial political viewpoints, but this is simply based off an iPhone unboxing. Perhaps Google is getting their hands on what gets ad revenue and what doesn’t. Or maybe it is simply a careless algorithm that got it wrong. It will be very interesting to hear how YouTube responds to this outcry by content creators.