The YouTubers Union: Advocating for YouTube transparency

It’s no secret that people can make some money by producing videos and posting them on YouTube. But can people actually quit their day jobs and become YouTubers full time?

The leader of the YouTubers Union Jörg Sprave doesn’t think so, following the events of a so-called “Adpocalypse” of 2017.

That year, YouTube faced a widespread boycott from advertisers who became concerned that their ads were appearing before content that promoted extremism and hate speech, among other sensitive issues. In an effort to reel them back to the platform and regain their confidence, YouTube demonetized waves upon waves of videos that they deemed unfriendly to advertisers.

This resulted in the videos of many YouTubers, including the Berlin-based Sprave, who ran a channel dedicated to slingshots, reportedly being stripped of their ad revenue or having their videos or channel taken down, despite following content guidelines laid down by YouTube itself.

Sprave took action, rallying other affected YouTubers to demand the platform be more transparent and fair when it comes to the decision-making process behind video monetization, demonetization, and other practices.

The group argued that they were robbed of opportunities to make a living because YouTube only cared about brand deals with its more established stars. But Vice pointed out that even before the advertising changes, the top 3% of YouTubers were already getting close to 90% of the site’s traffic. Whatever the protesters could have earned at that time would not have amounted to much.

Sprave continues to post videos about slingshots, but also runs the YouTubers Union Facebook page, which as of writing has over 23 thousand members, and doubles as the group’s spokesman.

Launching the FairTube campaign

The problem with YouTubers Union is that the content creators who post videos on the platform are technically not employees of YouTube, making it difficult for them to be recognized as a legitimate union.

Last July, they partnered with IG Metall, the largest traditional trade union in Germany, to gain the legal and political muscle they needed in their protest.

Together, they launched FairTube, a campaign that would pressure the Google-owned video-sharing platform to meet with them and negotiate their demands.

“We aren’t demanding things that cut into profits or are unrealistic. We want fairness. We want transparency. We want to be treated like partners. And we want personal communication instead of anonymous communication,” Sprave told Vice.

FairTube posted its demands online. One of the things proposed was for YouTube to publish the decision criteria affecting the monetization and views of videos.

In line with this, they expect these decisions to be explained to them by an authorized contact person. For instance, if a video gets demonetized, they expect to know which parts of the video violated which criteria.

They also asked for YouTubers to be able to contest decisions that result to videos being taken down or demonetized.

Last but not the least, they wanted to have a say in the company’s important decisions. They suggested the creation of an independent mediation board for resolving disputes and a YouTuber advisory board for communicating their concerns directly to YouTube.

YouTube initially refused to negotiate with the group’s demands, knowing the most popular creators were distancing themselves from the issue and not taking any action, as pointed out by The Verge.

Google Germany, however, reached out to the group last August and invited them for a meeting at their headquarters to discuss “fundamental questions regarding the future of work.”

It’s not yet known what came out of the meeting, but Sprave continues to post about the group’s issues with the platform in the YouTubers Union Facebook page. –