There are different rules if you’re ‘whitelisted’
Casey Neistat and Philip DeFranco are two of YouTube’s most prominent personalities, with a combined total of more than 13 million subscribers and far more total channel views. DeFranco in particular, who reports on YouTube trends and news, has become one of the most notable voices on the site; this means that when he talks about an issue, it grabs the attention of many YouTube creators.
Last week, Neistat and DeFranco called out YouTube for the division of creators on the platform and top brands, specifically ABC. In the wake of a mass shooting in Las Vegas that left more than 50 dead and hundreds more injured, DeFranco and Neistat posted a video talking about the tragedy and linking to a crowdfunding page where donations could be raised for charity. Both monetized the video, pointing out that any money made off the video from AdSense would go to charity as well.
On Oct. 5, three days after the video was published, Neistat tweeted that Google had marked the video not suitable for advertisers. As such, the video was demonetized. The same thing happened to DeFranco. This isn’t too out of the ordinary. It’s YouTube’s policy that videos about tragedies aren’t monetized. Both creators took their frustration to Twitter, but it wasn’t until DeFranco discovered that certain channels, like Jimmy Kimmel Live!, were playing unskippable ads during their coverage of the tragedy that they started to question what was happening.
A YouTube representative confirmed to Polygon that there are a number of “whitelisted” partners who are allowed to run partner-run ads on the website. That means they aren’t flagged by YouTube and used external sale forces to sell the advertisement for them. To compare, while DeFranco and Neistat rely on AdSense, which include ads sold through YouTube, ABC can run their own third-party ads on YouTube because they’re whitelisted by YouTube.
“In these cases, the partners worked directly with the advertisers to serve ads on their content, and in so doing took full responsibility for their placement including issues around brand suitability,” the representative said.
Following DeFranco and Neistat’s complaints, the YouTube representative confirmed that external ad use by whitelisted channels in the case of tragedies is being reviewed.
“In the specific case of tragedies, like the one in Las Vegas, we are working to not allow such partners to sell against such content. We have not completed this work yet but will soon.”
In a followup video, DeFranco said the way YouTube treated its own creators versus bigger networks and personalities, like ABC and Jimmy Kimmel, felt like a “big middle finger to your average creator that there are different rules based on your size.”
Since the ads aren’t sold through Google, YouTube allows the ads to serve on specific videos. The responsibility for which videos the partner-ads are based on therefore falls on ABC, not YouTube. This includes content that some brands may not consider suitable. YouTube is effectively hands off with these decisions, but a representative reiterated they are looking into fixing the situation.