Live by the algorithm, die by the algorithm

Published 11.12.2019: Youtube recently announced changes to its terms of service, and, as in the past, a segment of creators is freaking out. This topic isn't typical fodder at this site, but it could be considered an airing of grievances offered for your consideration prior to festivus. After reading through the terms (I have a Youtube channel for my offline business and (apparently) a personal one too, though I don't remember setting one up. In any event, I've received numerous notifications that the terms of service are changing.

So having read through the new terms, which take effect January 1, 2020, I then went to Youtube to see if there any uproar— it's Youtube, so of course there was. I did learn a few things I hadn't known previously.

It's all about the kids

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Basically, the new terms stem from a settlement between Youtube and the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) over a dispute over a 1998 law that was meant to protect kids under 13. Under this law (acronym COPPA, I don't feel like googling the actual title), companies are prohibited from collecting data from users under 13 and using if for advertising, etc.

Well, that is Google's business model. It collects data from searches and user habits at its various sites, then looks to monetize that data. Google builds profiles of users with the intent to target the user with personalized advertising. Personalized advertising is more effective, and results in higher payment to content producers who have those ads on their channel.

Starting January 1, though, targeted ads will not appear on any content that is labeled for children, which could be devastating for kids' channels that count on that ad revenue. Content producers will be asked to state whether their content is kid friendly, but Google's artificial intelligence tools will also be searching through content to flag kid related content. And therein lies the angst.

A lot of gaming channels are nothing more than some dude (it's nearly always a dude) playing a video game while pontificating about some topic or other— very often political. The pontification might not be aimed at kids, but with the player is playing Super Mario Brothers, or Pokemon, both of which are aimed at kids (of all ages, but still)? Does that count as kids content? Is that type of channel then barred from targeted ads?

Google is constantly changing its rules and algorithms, and it has an absolute right to do so. This isn't a first amendment issue, Google is a private company. It has no need to host or monetize content that it doesn't prefer. There are other platforms for video hosting of course, but none are as well trafficked as Google. So I get why the affected creators are angry. But read the title again: "Live by the algorithm, die by the algorithm."

If you put the success or failure of your business in the hands of a third party, then you are subject to the whims of that third party. Or a government that seems to think that children should never be exposed to advertising. I do understand the desire to protect kids, but how easy is it to lie to a machine about how old you are? Or to sign in with your older sibling's (or parent's) account?

I don't really understand the appeal of watching someone play a video game and rant. I first came across this type of channel during the "Gamergate" fiasco, which I'm not going to rehash. But I was, and remain, dumbfounded that anyone would spend hours (and some of these videos are quite lengthy) watching and listening to such drivel. À chacun son goût, I guess.

As per usual, I started this and then had to set it aside, and no I've sort of last the thread on where precisely I was heading with it. But I'm going to publish anyway, because I've been learning recently that is the only way to improve. Do it, don't sweat that it's not perfect, then do it again tomorrow. Can't (won't) promise that, but I do intend to write more (I always intend to write more…).

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