Christopher and other top creators are in a precarious position: Though their videos provide a steady stream of income to YouTube via advertising, they don’t work for YouTube directly, and the company has a long history of deleting channels, demonetizing videos or accounts without warning, and leaving creators with little to no recourse or explanation.
In January, YouTube made sweeping, sudden changes to the qualifications it used to judge whether channels were eligible to earn money on the platform. Thousands of small channels lost their ability to generate money on YouTube overnight and had no way to appeal. For the vast majority of YouTube creators who aren’t members of YouTube’s top 3 percent, there’s almost no direct line of communication to the company: Creators get automated emails saying their channels are penalized. When they try to reach out to YouTube, rather than get a person, they get more automated responses. While some encourage their fans to tweet at YouTube’s various Twitter handles, that usually proves fruitless, too.
This spring, some creators attempted to ban together and start a union, hoping that collective bargaining might help them better reach the company. Others simply quit the job entirely.
Ben, a vetted volunteer “ trusted flagger,” who helps YouTube identify problematic content and offensive channels, said that after four years as a volunteer for YouTube, he’s seen tensions between YouTube and its creators peak in the past year.
“YouTube needs to be more transparent in their policies and give in-depth information to creators,” he said. “If a YouTube Trusted Flagger can’t distinguish whether there has been a violation based on the public information they give out, I cannot see how they could expect most users to do so either.”
The YouTube gambling community isn’t massive, but its biggest channels have tens and sometimes hundreds of thousands of loyal and active fans, which allows them to broker brand deals with big-time casinos, gambling-machine manufacturers, and online gambling sites in Europe. After his channel was taken down, Christopher spent days trying to renegotiate deals he had made with casinos throughout his tour.
“YouTube doing this stuff absolutely jeopardizes my business relationships,” Christopher said. “I’m in contact with the casinos I was supposed to visit, I’m trying to put them at ease and continue on Facebook. I know I haven’t lost my brand ... but it’s tough.”
Christopher’s channel was reinstated shortly after he spoke to The Atlantic, but other popular gambling channels have received permanent or temporary bans, or have had features, such as the ability to livestream, revoked.
“I’ve spoken with other channels, no one knows what’s happening,” said Christopher. “No one has any facts, including myself. No other channels know how to prevent this. They’re scared, they’re deleting videos saying ‘maybe these are ones that YouTube won’t like.’ They’re afraid to go live.” He added that even after he received an email saying his appeal was granted and channel reinstated, he wasn’t given any explanation for why the initial deletion occurred.