YouTubers are unionizing for a fair platform

5 years ago

For the last couple of years, YouTube had its fair share of controversies. Google’s unwillingness to hire moderators for YouTube and heavy use of algorithms that use a rule set which is unknown to the public, created a plethora of problems for YouTubers.

There are two important problems that YouTubers face when they’re trying to make a living on the platform. The first one is that the monetization algorithm is very unforgiving, meaning lots of content creators are losing monetization on almost all of their videos.

The main reason why the algorithm turned so hostile in time is that advertisers didn’t want their ads running on inappropriate videos, so they threatened YouTube that they would completely withdraw from the platform. After some big companies suspending their ads on YouTube, the platform decided they would tune the algorithm to full blast, and that’s where we are today.

The second problem is that YouTubers are not actual employees of YouTube, meaning they don’t have any rights that employees with contracts would have. Not only this, YouTubers are not independent contractors either, so they can’t have the rights or privileges of being a freelancer either. This is because YouTubers don’t actually sign any contracts, and YouTube can demonetize any channel for any reason without disclosing or warning the content creator. This happened to countless YouTubers, and allegedly, YouTube holds this power over creators for applying pressure and sanctions on creators to create accordingly.

One of these YouTubers, Jörg Sprave, creator of The Slingshot Channel, got demonetized and even flagged as inappropriate several times, decided to form a union. Jörg creates “backyard engineer” style videos where he makes interesting contraptions that include slingshots or bows in it. Of course, the hint of violence (he doesn't shoot anything living, he doesn’t even condone hunting for that matter) got caught by YouTube’s algorithm and quickly his channel started to make only %20 or %30 of what it used to make. Jörg left his full-time job, like many others, to continue his carrier as a YouTuber, but demonetization came without warning or disclosure or proper reasoning. He realized channels with far innocent content were demonetized. Since almost every channel is complaining about this issue, Jörg thought it could be a good idea to form a union and fight together.

Jörg managed to join forces with Europe’s largest trade union IG Metall, which was founded with the German Metalworkers' Association (DMV). Together they started the movement called the FairTube Campaign and founded The YouTubers Union public Facebook group. As of right now, YouTubers Union has more than 20 thousand members, and according to the FairTube website, IG Metall has 2.3 million members that made FairTube possible. With serious social media push, they even managed to get YouTube’s attention. Right now, they’re not satisfied by the first response but the platform promises to have a comprehensive discussion with the union.

Thanks to IG Metall’s legal staff and their experience on the matter, they even told YouTube that they would start a lawsuit if YouTube decided to ignore the union. According to IG Metall, YouTube is infringing the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation rules. These rules give people the right to know whether their personal data is being processed, for what purpose, and to request a copy of it all. The union argues that algorithms deciding to stop ads being attached to a clip generate such data. And that the creators have the right access that data.

Right now the union is waiting for the second response and hoping that the monopolistic platform will give them the rights and privileges they deserve. You can join the online union and even support it with donations if you want.

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