YouTube Runs Quasi-Pornographic Ads While Punishing Creators For Far Less

By: Steve Russo | Published: Mar 18, 2021

Upper Echelon Gamers is a gaming organization which, among other things, publishes videos about current events and topics particularly within (but not limited to) the gaming community. Its founder, an individual who goes by the username Sanctionite, seems to be at the very least a savvy content creator. He has built the Upper Echelon YouTube channel from nothing to over 440k subscribers and nearly 100 million total views in less than five years.

For the past year, Sanctionite was able to “self-certify” the ad safety of Upper Echelon’s videos, an ability which he explains as follows:

[…] YouTube employs a system where creators can self-certify videos and say whether or not they are ‘safe’ for ads or ’not safe’ for ads. If you use it accurately, they allow you to choose. If you don’t, they rely on the automated system, which is horrible and often screws channels over.

That last part is key: self-certification is an extremely valuable tool for creators who know how to use it because it helps them avoid the hellscape of YouTube’s highly corporatized automation. Knowing this, Sanctionite self-certified his videos with an abundance of caution so as not to lose this ability:

I would often put “limited ads” on my own videos… I tried very hard to be accurate in these ratings.

Unfortunately, he did lose it after publishing a video titled The Legendary mASS Effect Idiocy. This video covered how the remastered edition of the video game Mass Effect would no longer contain certain close up scenes of a female character’s volumptuous ass. While the video showed a few screenshots for context, the vast majority of it focused on the absurd and hypocritical reaction by gaming media and journalists:

The original Mass Effect series featured a character called Miranda. Miranda has a brick house ass, and several camera angles in the original material showcase that to the audience. Does it make or break the game? No. Does it appeal to some players? Yes. Does it need to be the focal point of six hundred gaming news articles in a week long outrage campaign? No. No it does not.

That didn’t matter though, because the video was flagged for violations of YouTube’s “nudity and sexual content policies”, and this decision was even upheld upon manual review at YouTube. Unsurprisingly, the Upper Echelon channel saw several more absurd demonetizations in the following weeks due to the fact that YouTube was automatically determining the ad safety of the videos instead of Sanctionite self-certifying them. The video released after the mASS Effect one was titled The Moral Paradox of Canceling Disney Plus, and it covered online reactions to Gina Carano being fired for a social media post. This video was also demonetized despite Sanctionite asking YouTube within the video itself to review it fairly:

Basically, Gina Carano […] posted a paragraph to one of her social medias reading as follows. Warning: there’s some rather intense language here. Also, whoever reviews this video manually at YouTube, what’s up? Hi! Yes, hello! I feel I should read the quote verbatim to properly communicate the subject matter, but in context, can we please look at this fairly and maybe not demonetize? Thanks.

Eventually, he made a video titled The Absolute Pathetic State of YouTube which pointed out the absurdity of YouTube flagging one of his videos due to a few screenshots from a video game, while at the same time allowing entire categories of videos such as naked news and naked yoga to remain on the platform. More importantly though, he also pointed out how some of the ads currently running on YouTube are very pornographically suggestive and have even been a problem as far back as two years ago when YouTube acknowledged the problem themselves. This video was also demonetized because a few sexual words such as “porn” and “sex” were still visible in the violative content being discussed despite the fact that all images were blurred. And this is where we reach the pinnacle of YouTube’s ludicrousness: some Upper Echelon videos, particularly this one pointing out the violative content and ads that remain on YouTube, were flagged, and yet YouTube continues to run these quasi-pornographic ads even on Upper Echelon’s videos!

Youtube demonetized my video for “sexual content” while advertising literal fetish porn cartoons on it. You cannot make this shit up.

– Upper Echelon Gaming (@UE_UpperEchelon) 9 Mar 2021

What’s worse is that this is not an isolated issue in regards to the Upper Echelon channel being mistreated. The first page of a simple keyword search on YouTube contains several videos of content creators discussing this exact same problem on YouTube, going back nearly a year, and pointing out that the ads even run on channels clearly meant for younger audiences. Some even mentioned how simply talking about this could get their videos demonetized. Additionally, a simple search on Reddit yields numerous posts of people complaining about getting these types of ads. There’s even one that was posted just a few days after the Upper Echelon video that highlighted this double standard:

If news anchors can just strip, on camera, with nudity in the thumbnail of the video, and edited sections that directly focus on the nudity aspect, violating ToS, categorically, and be allowed on the platform with no sanctions, or if actual taboo and fetish cartoon pornography can be advertised on my own videos […], they damn well have no grounds to demonetize anything I have ever created in my entire life.

Fortunately, after some time, Sanctionite was able to meet with his account manager at YouTube who not only tried to rectify the situation as best they could, but also had previously spent time examining and removing much of the violative content highlighted in the previous videos. Sadly, nothing could be done about Sanctionite losing the ability to self-certify. Creators can get this ability back, but only after a significant period of time or a significant number of new videos without any getting flagged, so hopefully this might be resolved in the long run.

I don’t think these types of problems on YouTube are going away because I don’t think that YouTube as a corporation views them as problematic, or at least not enough so to meaningfully address them. There might be good people, such as account managers, who try their best to fix some of the issues that come to their attention, but even then there is only so much they can do. Therefore, I think it’d be more accurate to say that these issues, and the trouble one must go through to resolve them, have become an inherent part of YouTube as a platform.

So if YouTube isn’t going to change, what can we do? Well if you’re a content creator, consider using alternative video hosting platforms! Most (if not all) provide some type of tool that allows you to automatically mirror your entire video library from YouTube. In other words, whenever you upload a video on YouTube, it’ll automatically upload to the new platform as well. Not only will this serve as a contingency in case YouTube’s automation starts messing with your channel, but it could also be rewarding in its own right. For example, creators and viewers on Odysee both earn cryptocurrency for using the platform. Futhermore, especially if you are a content creator who is just getting started, you could possibly experience quicker and more sustained growth than you would on YouTube nowadays.

The trend towards new & alternative technology is real and continually growing stronger for many reasons. These newer platforms are already innovating at a greater rate than BigTech because they focus on improving their own sites instead of over-policing them. This trend will only accelerate if corporations like YouTube continue to rely so heavily on their clearly flawed automation which results in the mistreatment of quality channels like Upper Echelon Gamers.