YouTube Pulls Black Lives Matter Fundraising Videos That Encourage ‘Fake Engagement’

Todd Spangler

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YouTube has removed multiple videos whose creators said they were donating ad revenue to Black Lives Matter and other racial-justice causes — but who were trying to game the system.

In a recent trend, creators have been offering to donate the AdSense revenue earned from their YouTube videos as a way to raise funds for Black Lives Matter causes for people who may not have money to make a donation.

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The issue: Some videos encouraged people to repeatedly watch the video for ad views, or to repeatedly click on the ads in the video. That’s a violation of YouTube’s policies, according to the Google-owned video giant.

“If your video encourages this behavior, it will be removed from YouTube,” the video service said in an article on its support site posted Thursday. “You won’t be paid for the views and clicks, and advertisers will not be charged.” According to YouTube’s Community Guidelines on “Fake Engagement,” content “that solely exists to incentivize viewers for engagement (views, likes, comments, etc) is prohibited.”

A YouTube search of “Black Lives Matter playlist donate” revealed that several videos have been deleted, replaced with a message reading “This video has been removed for violating YouTube’s policy on spam, deceptive practices, and scams.” Other videos telling users they can donate to Black Lives Matter “with no money by listening” currently remain live on YouTube, including this 24-hour hip-hop livestream by Revive Music.

“We realize some of you kicked off these efforts without a clear understanding of the policies, so YouTube will be donating to racial justice initiatives to acknowledge the efforts over the past week,” the YouTube update reads.

YouTube’s crackdown on videos trying to artificially inflate views — and corresponding AdSense revenue — comes as it announced a $100 million fund to help “amplify” Black creators and artists. That effort will include a livestreamed fundraising event on June 13: “Bear Witness, Take Action,” hosted by Common and Keke Palmer, which will include roundtable discussions and panels and musical performances by John Legend and Trey Songz.

YouTube noted that many creators are eligible to add a “Donate” button on their videos and livestreams. According to CEO Susan Wojcicki, this year YouTube has expanded access to the “Donate” feature from 1,500 eligible channels to more than 40,000.

For those who don’t have access to the “Donate” button, YouTube says video creators can use end screens, which may be added to the last 5-20 seconds of a video, to link to a nonprofit organization or fundraising website like GoFundMe or JustGiving.

In addition to promoting Black creators through the new $100 million fund, Wojcicki in her quarterly update to the creator community called attention to the work YouTube has done over the years to try to eliminate hate speech and harassment.

Last year, YouTube adopted more stringent hate speech and harassment policies, which specifically ban videos alleging that a group is superior based on qualities like race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation. Wojcicki said that in the first quarter of 2020, YouTube pulled down more than 100,000 videos and deleted 100 million comments for hate and harassment policy violations. “That said,” she added, “we know there’s more work to do.”

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