My YouTube Account Terminated
My YouTube account of about 4 1/2 years, over 1.5 million views, 87 videos, 1305 subscribers has been terminated.
UPDATE: 08/08/11 – My Appeal Was Successful, YouTube Account Re-activated!!
As such, you will see a demeaning (defaming?) message on any of my embedded YouTube videos that looks like this:
Since I am appealing to YouTube – assuming their contact form with a very stingy 200 characters actually reaches a human being – I have not taken the links down yet. Let’s hope I am not being naively optimistic! I have been told it’s easier to get Obama on the phone than to connect with a live person at Google (owner of YouTube).
If you pull up the link to my (former) YouTube Channel (youtube.com/FreeCompConsultant) you will see an even more defamitory message that looks like this:
Here Is The Story Behind My YouTube Account Termination
On Sunday afternoon I received the following email from YouTube:
Regarding your account: FreeCompConsultant
The following video(s) from your account have been disabled for violation of the YouTube Community Guidelines:
- How to Make Money Online – Even for Beginners – (FreeCompConsultant)
Your account has received one Community Guidelines warning strike, which will expire in six months. Additional violations may result in the temporary disabling of your ability to post content to YouTube and/or the termination of your account.
The YouTube Team
Let me say right here and now that NOTHING prohibited in the “community guidelines” represents anything I have EVER done on YouTube!
This is the first time I have ever seen (or even been aware) of anything even like this. That particular video, since it has to do with making money online, DOES receive the most SPAM comments of any of my videos, but no more than 2 or 3 a week at most, and NOT FROM ME!
Not only that, I do my part to keep YouTube a great community.
I evaluate all comments on all my videos (when notified of them, at least) and I typically mark as spam those that are – which sometimes doesn’t seem to work for whatever reason – or just remove them if marking as spam does not remove them. I did consider closing comments on that particular video, but since there were a couple of meaningful ones I left comments on; perhaps that was a mistake I don’t know.
One Strike To Be Removed In 6 Months
Notice that according to the email, I have just received one strike (which, as I read it, can be ANONYMOUS, but unclear whether this is only YouTube staff or not) that will expire in six months. And, of course, I now have no way to ascertain what that strike is for.
Naturally, I thought it prudent to login to my account and see what was going on right away.
YouTube’s Admission That Hacking Is Suspect
When I tried to login to my FreeCompConsultant account at YouTube I was redirected to a page that announced that due to unusual activity on my account I needed to supply a phone number for either a text message or automated phone call to verify my account.
(Note gnawing feeling beginning in pit of stomach!)
Imagine my shock and horror when I was then redirected to a page that said my YouTube account was terminated due to severe or multiple violations of their community guidelines!
What the heck can be SO severe as to cause that? Especially since all I have done recently is monitor comments and either reply if appropriate or remove/mark as spam for bad comments.
Well, you look at their community guidelines (see link above in the original email) and there is some pretty nasty stuff. I know I didn’t do any of that, so combined with the “suspicious activity” message I can only suspect that my YouTube account was hacked.
But since YouTube offers NO EXPLANATION whatsoever, or even a chance to view the offending video/tags/comments, what is someone supposed to think?
Quite honestly, it’s embarrassing to have someone try to pull up your well regarded YouTube channel and be greeted with a red warning message indicating that the account was terminated due to “severe or multiple violations” of their community guidelines policy.
Should someone click through to read that policy it looks like I am accused and found guilty (with no opportunity for defense) of something fairly nasty.
Is that really fair? How about:
This account has been taken offline while we investigate a problem that was brought to our attention. It may or may not come back online soon. Thank you for your patience while this is resolved. This is not necessarily a reflection on the integrity of the YouTube user who owns this account.
I mean, really, don’t tell me that they don’t track IP addresses of logins, comments, etc and therefore have significant reason to believe that whatever was done was NOT done by me (I have a static IP address and I’ll bet 99% of my accesses were from my office at that IP).
So, just let me say that if I owned YouTube (yeah, I know) I would not treat the people who upload the content that makes my site what it is in such a way. While this is still America (another subject), shouldn’t we have a right to defend ourselves against such a severe and offending charge as this, one that results in such defamation?
In the meantime, I am pursuing this – although I really don’t have the time for it – and holdout some hope, however small, that I may get the account back.
Some of the videos are available on other sites, but with the limitations of these other video upload sites and the popularity of YouTube, YouTube was always my favorite to maintain and to interact with all of the great people who left comments; some just to say “thanks, man”.
I will update this when/if I learn more.
In the meantime, maybe you should change your YouTube password to a complex one (use LastPass or something similar) that is of the maximum length and complexity that YouTube allows. Although mine was fairly long and complex and apparently that was not enough.
P.S. – Bookmarking this post is appreciated.
Update (6/14/2011 – 12:43pm CDT)
It seems I am not alone (see http://www.warriorforum.com/main-internet-marketing-discussion-forum/396131-youtube-meltdown-warning.html). This is a sweep. Google does not want anyone but themselves to make money online. If you have a big enough fan base (ProBlogger.com, who also got terminated) you can get reinstated. Everyone else is left to feel victims of defamation of character.
Truth Revealed – YouTube Sweep, Mass Account Terminations
(What follows is my opinion based on experience, observation and interaction with others in the online world and is not meant to defame Google, YouTube or their employees but merely to point out observations of their policies and behavior that I find stupid from a businessman’s perspective and insulting as a person/customer/partner of theirs.)
Google hates internet marketers, the first real indication thereof when they swept their Adwords (for Google Advertising) accounts about a year and a half ago. They performed a mass suspension of Adwords advertising accounts, even some that spent 6 to 7 figures annually (dumb business move).
Google, like other Silicon Valley behemoths like eBay, have their own preferences and agendas. That’s OK, we all do.
In America, there are rules. No, we are not free, businesses do not just get to do what they want. I know, I own or have owned many businesses.
How would you like to go into Walmart and find that you can browse all you want to, but you cannot interact with other customers, the staff, nor can you buy anything? What if that policy was only applied to, say, Hispanics (or Whites, even)? Oops. Walmart would go down, taken down by a host of Federal and State agencies.
What if it was because your were wearing red that day? Maybe Walmart has determined that people wearing red have a negative impact on the shopping experience of other customers? Would that be allowed? Nope, don’t think so.
But that is what Google, and its wholly owned YouTube do. And they get away with it.
No, advertisers cannot just go somewhere else. Google is a monopoly. Just ask them how much of the internet search market they control, they will brag about it.
Google Won’t Tell You The Rules
Google will claim that anyone they have banned has broken their rules. Google will also ban that person for life; period.
The problem is that in most cases, the person had no way of knowing they were breaking the rules because:
- Google keeps their rules a state secret
- Google changes the rules overnight. What was OK to do yesterday might get you permanently banned today, with:
- No warning
- No explanation
- No appeal
- Maybe, not even notify you that they banned you (just stop running your ads)
Google May Not Even Tell You That They Banned You
I know of one Adwords account that was suspended and the only way the owner knew of the action was that his ads no longer ran.
Only an email to support that was replied to confirmed the suspicion. In that email, they offer you to send more information if you want to pursue the issue. But all subsequent emails are identical; each with the offer to send more information, each going nowhere.
The YouTube Mass Account Termination Sweep
It turns out the YouTube, owned by Google, is now cut from the same cloth. Where that company finds employees to thinks this way is beyond me.
It’s bad for business, but business is good right now apparently, and their stock trades at over $500 per share – barely (GOOG), so they won’t worry about it until someday, if business ever turns down – then maybe…
YouTube employees decided that their new policy, that is STILL NOT POSTED in their Terms of Service or their Community Guidelines is that you may NOT post videos on certain topics, for instance:
- Making money online (that right is apparently reserved for Google) – this is the one that nailed my account, I had 1 video of 87 that was on this topic
- SEO Tactics – Search Engine Optimization – help for getting your website and content properly indexed by Google, Yahoo/Bing and others so that users can find your site and offerings.
- Only God and Google/Yahoo know what else. Just post a video to find out if you are terminated.
The ramifications are not inconsequential.
YouTube claims that anyone with an account terminated is FOREVER BANNED from owning or accessing a YouTube account. BANNED from doing anything but browsing their site, ie – watching videos.
You cannot contribute to the community via comments, you cannot email a video poster, you are shut out from the #4 website in the world!
Can you go elsewhere?
Sure, but not without consequences.
Facebook is the #2 site, and you can post videos there. But having multiple channels, based on your interests, is not as easy. Plus, you miss out on accessing an incredible number of worldwide internet users. YouTube, far exceeds Facebook as a video site, though. Just ask anyone.
You miss out on a business opportunity to make money via Adsense on your videos. That’s right, if your videos are popular enough you may be invited by YouTube to become a YouTube Partner (I was) to share in the ad revenue from ads displayed on your videos and channel.
So for some people, having a YouTube account terminated wrongfully is a painful financial event as well.
Is It Across The Board?
No, they appear to pick and choose, or maybe grab a sampling of accounts – maybe just to “send a message”. Thanks a lot if you are one of the ones chosen.
In fact, if you search YouTube for “make money online”, not only will you find plenty of videos on that topic still live but you will likely even be presented with PROMOTED (read that as people PAID YouTube to put it in front of you) videos on that now “banned” topic.
Is This Fair, Is This Legal?
I vote no on both counts. It certainly is not fair, one has the right to know the rules BEFORE they are permanently banned for breaking them. And if the rules changed, YouTube has in the past simply take someone’s video down – which serves as a warning to the user – without terminating their account and banning them for life.
And it certainly makes sense to notify users of any changes, preferably in advance; giving them time to get their account into compliance.
At least, that’s what reputable firms do (my opinion); firms who respect their “partners” (Partners are those who share in ad revenue), and even the people who upload videos to make YouTube what it is. After all, what is YouTube if no one uploads a video? Just a blank white web page.
As far as being legal, again, I say no; reference the Walmart example above. The metaphor may not be perfect, but it’s what comes to mind right now and is not terribly far off.
And how about the defamation of character issue? Can Walmart post your name on their store wall saying you violated multiple or severe violation of their “community guidelines” – which you didn’t – and then post the list of those guidelines that includes such things as:
- Posting explicit content (hey, I’m no Congressman)
- Posting videos showing animal abuse, drug abuse, under-age drinking and smoking, or bomb making
- Your video shows someone being physically hurt, attacked, or humiliated
- predatory behavior, stalking, threats, harassment, intimidation, invading privacy, revealing other people’s personal information, and inciting others to commit violent acts (specifically mentioned as something that will get you permanently banned)
There are a few lesser violations, but why would anyone suspect you of a lesser violation when the notice states you are guilty of multiple or SEVERE violations?
Do you think Walmart would get away with that? Not if my name were on the list.
Will anyone do anything about it?
Well, maybe a State Attorney General might see it my way, who knows. Few people have deep enough pockets to sue Google/YouTube and I personally believe that is what these companies rely upon. Walmart is in your town, they are touchable, even the press would be on your side against them.
YouTube is somewhere out in the ether (unless you live in San Bruno, CA).
What I do know is that if you know the right people, the problem can be solved. See Darren Rowse of ProBlogger.net in his post where he explains the problem and acknowledges YouTube’s reversal – for him.
This policy of secret rules, changes made overnight, with penalties executed with extreme prejudice…
Folks, to quote Chris Rock in Head of State, “That ain’t right!”
Some Advice For YouTubers
- Make sure you have a strong password on your account, just in case hacking could be a problem. Use LastPass or Password safe to help you create, remember and securely store the password.
- If you submit videos on more than one channel, make sure there is only 1 email address per channel. If anyone else in your family shares an email address, get a new one and change the email on the YouTube account. If one channel on an email address is terminated, they all will be.
- Delete any videos (after downloading/saving a copy if you don’t have one) that you think might get you caught in their net.
- Keep copies of all videos you care about that you upload. You may also want to keep a spreadsheet of the descriptions and tags you used too.
Update: Here is another story, albeit with a happy ending for them: