There is corruption in the government, the Middle East is in turmoil, and YouTube creators are mad at YouTube.
Any day you choose to read that sentence, all of those statements will continue to be true. And in a lot of cases the anger at YouTube is unjustified or misguided. Their algorithm is way too complicated to expect an easy fix. Conservatives who shout about bias and censorship because of demonetized videos are ignoring the equal weight of demonetization across the political spectrum. And while copyright strikes are often frivolous and harmful, that is fraught legal territory that YouTube can't be expected to navigate perfectly—though hopefully they're working to improve. But the YouTube Walkout this week is different, because in the latest issue there's not a lot of room to give YouTube the benefit of the doubt. In this case, they definitely suck.
About a month ago YouTube updated their terms of service to include, among other things, a clause stipulating that if your channel was deemed "no longer commercially viable," they could "terminate your access or your Google account's access to all or part of the service." The absurdly vague terms involved have been interpreted in any number of ways, any one of which could reflect YouTube's actual intent. Are they setting things up to delete Neo-Nazi accounts and channels devoted to traumatizing children? Or the collected crust of weird pseudo-p*rn living in their loopholes? Or are they preparing to oust creators who make their money through Patreon and your 12-year-old cousin who makes Pokemon-unboxing videos?
The truth is, it doesn't really matter what their intentions are. The language is so vague that they can decide to turn it against anyone they want to down the road. Maybe next week there will be a purge of white supremacists, but the week after Youtube could use this clause to delete accounts that are critical of the government, or accounts that are critical of Youtube itself.
Considering the number of legitimate, hard-working creators whose livelihoods are tied to their YouTube accounts, it's no wonder there's been a backlash. That's why you might not see so many new videos this week, particularly from YouTubers with a political bent. Creators are participating in a Youtube walkout from December 10-13. And they're asking you to participate by staying off the site until this weekend. If enough of us can stave off our Youtube addiction by just opening a book—or, you know, Vimeo, Dailymotion, Veoh, Twitch…—we may be able to push YouTube to treat their creators better and maintain the openness that we love about their platform.
So please—just until Saturday—stay off YouTube.