Swearing on YouTube has become challenging.
In November, YouTube updated the profanity policy in its ad guidelines, which further restricts what users can or can’t say in a video. Now, all kinds of curse words “are treated equally,” rather than considered at different levels of “severity.” Videos with profanity in the thumbnail, title, or first seven seconds may be demonetized. (Under this policy, “hell” and “damn” are no longer considered profanities.)
This week, gaming content creators are saying they have been impacted by the policy, as videos new and old — including videos posted before the new policy was enacted — were marked for “limited” ad revenue. Videos have been demonetized for something as simple as curse words in the first few seconds. And YouTube’s top creators are questioning the viability of the platform, thanks to this new policy and its moderation.
YouTube’s updated profanity policy gained visibility on Sunday when gaming creator Daniel Condren, or RTGame on YouTube, made a video about his experiences with it. In the video, the creator said that YouTube flagged a compilation video of his best clips from 2022, limiting its ability to generate ad revenue. YouTube also marked it “age-restricted,” meaning only people with age-authenticated YouTube accounts, which require a government ID, can view the video. Daniel said this lowered the number of views the video received and made it harder for him to make money off of it.
Condren initially hoped that the limited ad revenue and age-restriction designations would be removed once a person from YouTube support reviewed his video. YouTube uses a combination of humans and machine-learning technology to remove content that violates its policies as quickly as possible. If a user, like Condren, thinks that a mistake was made after an initial strike, they can appeal for a real-life person to review the content and see if it falls within guidelines. Condren made his compilation video using his previously published videos, which YouTube had not marked with any restrictions, so he thought the issue could be resolved. This also wasn’t his first time interacting with YouTube support. When one of Condren’s videos was flagged, a year prior, he resolved the matter after a YouTube worker reviewed the video.
However, his approach appeared to backfire this time. After he flagged the issue by asking for help on Twitter, one more video was marked as age-restricted, and several more were demonetized. After a person from YouTube support reviewed the videos, YouTube maintained its position, Daniel explained, as he showed screenshots from a support email. His video about the popular horror game The Quarry now violated the platform’s violent and graphic content guidelines, thus making it suitable for age-restriction. Other videos were marked for limited monetization due to the new swearing policy.
“It’s genuinely depressing haha. Because I asked YouTube for help with restoring my restricted video [and] I had dozens more limited. I love making videos on YouTube but this has really shown that any success on the platform can disappear on a whim,” Condren told Polygon via email.