June 15, 2011
Go to Google. Do a search for “YouTube False Flagging” or “YouTube False Flagging Problem”. It won’t take you long to find scores of individuals who have been affected by this issue.
You see, YouTube is a community of users who post and share videos. As with any community (especially communities of the Social Media/Web 2.0 variety), there are inherent rules put in place to serve the best interest of the community. YouTube refers to these rules as “Community Guidelines”. Examples of community guidelines may include things like: no pornography, no hate speech, no commenting excessively on the videos of others for the sheer purpose of advertising your webpage, no spamming, no videos making threats, no predatory behavior/bullying, etc.
When one community member sees another community member who is breaking these rules (or, if a YouTube admin feels like the rules have been broken) then the video that has committed the “crime” is flagged. Once your video has been flagged you receive a warning. If it happens again, (within a 6 month period of time) you’re banned from putting up videos for a period of time (usually 2 weeks). If it happens a third time, your account gets shut down.
At face value, this is a sound idea designed to help contribute to the overall well being of the community. But what happens when a video is flagged that has NOT broken the rules of the community? This is what is known as False Flagging and it happens all the time.
Let me say that again. FALSE FLAGGING is when a video has NOT broken any rules, but still gets flagged; and the owner of the video gets a strike against their account, even though they’ve done nothing wrong. This might happen because some moron doesn’t like your video so they decided to flag it (this happens a lot with religious/political videos that people just don’t agree with). Or, maybe it’s your competition and they’re going around flagging all of the videos that compete with their video. Or maybe someone falsely accuses you of copyright infringement under what’s known as the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act), or maybe you just caught someone on a bad day and your video was flagged just for the sake of being flagged. Whatever the reason, the FACT is that you did nothing wrong, but your video got flagged and now your account has a strike against it.
And guess what – there’s pretty much NOTHING you can do about it!
Now, you may not think this is such a big deal, but for people like me who have spent YEARS building a channel that has literally hundreds of videos, hundreds of subscribers, thousands of friends, and tens of thousands of views – it represents YEARS of effort being wiped away with the push of a button.
My problem with the whole false flagging thing is not only with the idiots who go around false flagging people’s videos – although they DO deserve blame, the fact of the matter is that jerks will be jerks and there are WAY too many of them to catch – but also also with YouTube for not providing a way to allow legitimate rebuttals/appeals of false flagging AND with not penalizing individuals who are caught false flagging so as to dissuade them from doing it anymore.
(Q.) But Devon, can’t you just contact YouTube and ask them why the video was flagged?
(A.) Nope – I mean, you can try – but they will NOT talk to you. Don’t believe me? Go ahead, give them a ring and see if you get through. Here’s YouTube’s phone number: 1-650-253-0000 (remember, they’re owned by Google so that’s how they’ll answer the phone)
(Q.) So you’re telling me that I can’t appeal the flagging?
(A.) Go ahead, give it a shot. Submit an appeal after they’ve flagged you and see if you get a response
(Q.) What about emailing customer support and explaining to them that your video is clearly NOT in conflict with their community guidelines?
(A.) Go ahead e-mail them and see what kind of response you get firstname.lastname@example.org – email@example.com – firstname.lastname@example.org
And while you’re at it you can go here and ask them about it on their forum http://bit.ly/iroGd2
And then you can go here and try to submit a support ticket – http://www.google.com/support/youtube/bin/request.py?hl=en&contact_type=tou
After you’ve exhausted yourself trying to figure out why YouTube refuses to help the very people who make their site what it is; you may then ask yourself – “but what about the really elite people who have been on YouTube for years and have a bazillion views, friends, and subscribers?”
Well, there’s no course of action for them either. How do I know? Simple, because I’m one of them. And while I don’t have a “bazillion” video views, my 200+ videos, 700+ subscribers, 1,400+ friends, and 100,000+ video views are good enough to put my channel in the top 20% of YouTube channels and good enough for YouTube to give me “partner” status (which allows me to upload videos longer than 15 minutes and place advertisements on my videos if I want to). And over the past 2 months my channel (http://YouTube.com/renegadesuccess ) has received 2 different flags. One more, and all of the work I’ve put into my channel since 2009 gets wiped out!
Why have my videos been flagged? I don’t know – no one will tell me. Here’s the answer I got when I called YouTube to discuss the matter
YT Chick: Sir, there’s no one here that you can talk to, but I can direct you to the website that shows our community guidelines
(Q.) But Devon, I checked out your YouTube channel and you’re clearly in the “Home Business” industry. Isn’t that industry bad and full of scammers?
(A.) LOL, did you just paint an entire industry with one broad brush stroke and lump everyone together? That’s like saying “Aren’t all videos put up by liberals simply designed to help the government takeover and destroy capitalism?” Or, “Aren’t all videos by conservatives just designed to crap on Non-Christians and poor people?” Besides, the question is not “Do you like my industry and/or agree with my point of view?” The question is “Does the video meet the community guidelines?” If the answer to the 2nd question is YES, then there is no need for the video to be flagged.
My suggestion is simply this: If for some reason a video is flagged (and a strike placed against the video owner’s account) then YouTube should provide its users a legitimate way to dispute the malicious false flagging, AND/OR explain to the video owner WHY they were flagged so that they know not to do it again. The funny thing is that if YouTube were to simply say “here’s how to fix it” the VAST majority of us would willingly comply!
But they don’t.
YouTube would rather ignore the problem and hide from their users. As of the time of this writing, I’ve had to make back ups of ALL of my videos and start using Viddler.com to host videos for people to watch when they visit my blog. And while I realize that in the eyes of YouTube/Google; that I’m just a little ant, and that they could care less whether I use their service or not. The fact of the matter is that “little ants” like me are the ones who make up their community; and they owe it to their community of users to at least address an issue when it arises.
What YouTube needs to understand is that when false flagging occurs (and accounts get shut down), it’s not only hurting the owner of the particular video/account that got in trouble; it’s also hurting the thousands of individuals who enjoy watching videos from the person who created that account/channel.
A former YouTube insider told me that while he was working for YouTube, he was trained to NOT help any users who had a problem. So, needless to say, the only way YouTube will pay attention is if enough of us start to make some noise about it.
Hopefully my little article sheds some light on the situation. The sad part is that Google/YouTube have MORE than enough money to hire the small group of people it would take to oversee this problem.
Devon Brown – Internet Marketing Consultant, Speaker and Mentor. Business Entrepreneur, World Traveler and all around Fun Guy.