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Linus Tech Tips comments on self-censorship in the face of coronavirus demonetization

YouTubers are constantly having to avoid using certain words to prevent their livelihoods from being taken away.
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YouTube’s instant demonetization of some channels that mention coronavirus has begun to affect one of the top creators on the platform – Linus Sebastian.

In a recent livestream, Linus said that one of the TechLinked channel’s videos were demonetized due to mentioning coronavirus.

“We had a recent episode of TechLinked where we discussed the ongoing health problem in the world,” Linus said, being careful not to mention the word coronavirus for fear that the video would be demonetized. “And we got a yellow dollar sign, instead of a green one – which meant limited advertising.”

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It’s been just two weeks since YouTube began updating its guidelines to reclassify the coronavirus outbreak as a sensitive event.

That means all videos focusing on the subject are demonetized until further notice, YouTube said.

“I have a video coming out tomorrow on the Linus Tech Tips channel where I’m going to be discussing what I think are going to be the effects on pricing and availability of computer hardware, due to the manufacturing shutdowns,” Linus went on.

“And I end up tiptoeing around naming the issue that’s going on because if I talk about it directly I’m afraid that my video’s going to get demonetized. That seems absurd,” the tech YouTuber said.

“It feels like a monetization version of speech control,” said co-host Luke Lafreniere.

The incident highlights how creators are not avoiding talking about the coronavirus issue – after all, it’s one of the most important global events going on right now and it’s not likely that YouTube can scrub it from the collective consciousness – but it does mean that creators are having to use euphemisms of the virus to avoid directly naming it.

It also highlights how much of YouTube’s demonetization and censorship is based around trigger words and is totally devoid of context.

Last year, YouTube creators did a lot of research to create a demonetization blacklist to determine which words would get a video automatically demonetized, regardless of the circumstance in which it was used.

But while YouTube’s cold implementation of such keyword-based demonetizations can be harmful for creators, Linus did see why YouTube chooses to implement it.

“I can see how if I’m an advertiser or I’m the YouTube platform, I don’t want everyone and their dog jumping on to the latest viral spread, or the latest mass shooting or the latest genocide or whatever,” Linus said.

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