When YouTube updates its terms of service from political backlash, what are the downstream effects?
YouTube Pewdiepie Adpocalypse
The first instance of an adpocalypse came in 2016 when Swedish YouTuber PewDiePie published a video where he attempted to obtain outlandish phrases from fans on Fiverr. In one scene, the popular YouTuber had two boys hold up a sign reading “Death to all Jews,” which subsequently caused Disney to pull their contract with him and YouTube to issue new Terms of Service (ToS) to prevent the monetization of non-child-friendly content.
The second adpocalypse occurred when it came to light that terrorist videos were not only staying published on YouTube but were receiving advertising revenue. YouTube took action to change its ToS to moderate extremist content and updated its algorithm to target “extremist channels.” Both YouTube and Facebook deployed systems to block or rapidly take down videos from the terrorist caliphate known as ISIS or ISIL. The technology was originally created to target copywritten material such as music — but quickly developed into a tool for content moderation.
The “Vox Adpocalypse” was the third adpocalypse on YouTube. In 2019, Vox political commentator Carlos Maza was engaged in a tit-for-tat online battle with conservative comedian Steven Crowder. Crowder had produced segments of his show making fun of Maza’s series Strikethrough — referring to him as a “queer” in violation of YouTube ToS prohibiting “content that makes hurtful and negative personal comments/videos about another person.” Maza reported to YouTube that fans of Crowder had threatened and allegedly doxxed him. In response, YouTube decided to update its ToS to combat “conspiracy theory” content and demonetized Steven Crowder’s channel. Conservatives coined this the Vox Adpocalypse, as they felt the new ToS targeted independent creators — specifically Steven Crowder.