Google’s finally rolling back its unpopular decree against any kinds of profanity in videos, making it harder for any creators used to offering colorful sailor’s speech in videos from monetizing content on behalf of its beloved ad partners. The only thing is, Google still seems to think the “f-word” is excessively harsh language, so sorry Samuel L. Jackson, those motha-[redacted] snakes are still liable for less ad dollars on this motha-[redacted] plane.
On Tuesday, Google updated its support page to offer up an olive branch to crass creators upset that their potty mouths were resulting in their videos being demonetized. Now, the company clarified that use of “moderate” profanity at any time in a video is now eligible for ad revenue.
However, the company seemed to be antagonistic to “stronger profanity” like “the f-word,” AKA “fuck.” You can’t say “fuck” in the first seven seconds or repeatedly throughout a video or else you will receive “limited ads.” Putting words like “fuck” into a title or thumbnail will result in no ad content.
What is allowed are words like “hell” or “damn” in a title or thumbnail. Words like “bitch,” “douchebag,” “asshole,” and “shit” are considered “moderate profanity, so that’s fine to use frequently in a video. But “fuck,” dear god, will hurt advertiser’s poor virgin ears. YouTube has been extremely sensitive to what its advertisers are saying. For instance the platform came close to pulling big money-making ads over creepy pasta content during the “Elsagate” scandal.
The changes also impacted videos which used music tracks in the background. YouTube is now saying any use of “moderate” or “strong” profanity in background music is eligible for full ad revenue.
Back in November, YouTube changed its creator monetization policy, calling it guidelines for “advertiser-friendly content.” The company decreed that any video with a thumbnail or title containing obscene language or “adult material” wouldn’t receive any ad revenue. YouTube also said it would demonetize violent content such as dead bodies without context, or virtual violence directed at a “real, named person.” Fair enough, but then YouTube said it would demonetize any video which used profanity “in the first eight seconds of the video.”
YouTube has been working hard to keep advertisers happy on their platform. At the same time it made these changes, Google was adding access to third-party streaming services on the platform. Gaming YouTubers in particular were hurt by these changes, as our friends at Kotaku reported. It didn’t just impact new videos, but already-posted videos. Meaning if a creator dared curse in the first eight seconds or continuously in a video made months ago, they saw their profits start to dip. Creators like Daniel Condren from the channel RT Games reported that a dozen more of his older videos started getting flagged by YouTube after he contested one of his videos being demonetized.
On Tuesday, Google admitted this policy “actually resulted in a stricter approach than we intended.” The company told TechCrunch back in January that it planned to modify these content restrictions. YouTube promised any videos that received demonetization stickers will be re-reviewed by March 10.
Yet these changes still feel arbitrary. It’s not like there’s an international rating board who determines the word “fuck” is somehow worse than “shit.” If YouTube needs to strike a balance between age-appropriate content and selling ads, it might be best to make it completely transparent why it’s making these decisions and share just what are advertisers’ demands.