It's only a matter of time until cannabis use is normalized across the world, but for now, weed smokers and brands still experience heavy stigmatization by anti-drug groups and skeptics. Cannabis users and brands can use YouTube to connect with the cannabis community, provide educational material, promote their products, and just have fun consuming cannabis online. But YouTube isn't so keen on having weed smokers on their site.
Recent changes in ad placements on YouTube have led to many marijuana content creator pages being taken down for violating terms of service guidelines. Users with thousands of subscribers have received warnings, restrictions, and permanent deletions for vague reasons. For people looking to make cannabis-centric videos online, major online platforms are making it nearly impossible to build a following or make money from these videos.
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Weedtubers Affected By The Cannabis Purge
Cannabis YouTube creators are often referred to as "weedtubers." Many of these weedtubers create educational videos, tutorials, or simply consume a ridiculous amount of cannabis for pure entertainment. Creators like SilencedHippie (420,000 subscribers), NamelessStoners (80,000 subscribers), Matthias710WRX (100,000 followers), and more have gotten their accounts deleted for violating YouTube's terms of service rules.
Content creators are left wondering what they did wrong, and have almost no resources to get their accounts back. Many people, including medical cannabis patients, turn to these YouTube channels to learn about cannabis, methods of delivery, dosage, and potency. Not all cannabis video creators have felt the wrath of YouTube. The arbitrary nature of the cannabis purge has many creators worried about when their channels will cease to exist.
YouTube's Moderation and Strike Protocol
Currently, there are too many videos on YouTube for them to be categorized manually. An algorithm and bots are used to categorize content for ad placement purposes. Individual users can also manually flag inappropriate content. Oftentimes, the banning can seem arbitrary. YouTube gives unclear reasons for suspensions and removals. Users believe that YouTube is disincentivized to support cannabis channels because they can't make ad revenue from them.
YouTube has a three-strike policy when it comes to terms of service violations. A single strike prevents users from live streaming content for 90 days. Two strikes within this time period prevents creators from posting for two weeks. After three strikes, the account is permanently deleted. YouTube has even foregone their three strike rule and banned pages without warning.
Limited Options Left For Weedtubers
YouTube provides no guidelines on how a user can fix their page to fit the terms of service. Weedtubers can appeal their suspension and removal, but they have to do so with only 500 characters (including spaces). These appeals are reviewed by bots and can bounce back within minutes or take several days to hear back. Instead, weedtubers turn to other social media networks to continue their content creation.
Major social media networks like Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, are also cutthroat when it comes to cannabis-friendly pages. Suspended accounts are blocked from creating new accounts leaving users to create new pages that also get deleted. Weed-friendly sites like Weedtube have sprouted up as an alternative to the domineering video platforms.
Weedtube: By And For Cannabis Consumers
Weedtube was created by Arend Lenderink (TheGayStoner) and Mackenzie McCurry (Macdizzzle420) after their accounts were deleted from YouTube. The site crowdfunded $6,500 dollars in just two weeks and launched on March 1, 2018. Similar to YouTube's ad revenue process, Weedtube shares 52 percent of ad revenue with weedtubers on their site. Big-name weedtubers like 2 Girls 1 Bong and StonedAlone turned to weedtube to avoid censorship.
Weedtube video categories include lifestyle, education, community, and more. While still in its infancy, Weedtube provides prospective cannabis content creators with a platform where they are free to post cannabis content without fear of getting their page removed. Content creators and brands can use videos to market their brand or product, provide how-to's, and help new cannabis consumers find their way around the complicated world of cannabis.
Handling Suspensions and Deletions
Popular weedtubers who suffered from the cannabis purge have created videos on how to handle this messy affair. Weedtuber, Matthias710WRX, created a video listing a few tips on what to do if your page gets removed from YouTube. He advises video makers to not panic, take some time off, and create a new page where loyal supporters can follow back.
As mentioned before, weedtubers can turn to weed-friendly social networks to spread their message. Sites like Twitch and Vimeo have seen an influx of weedtubers looking for a new home. The most reasonable approach to maintaining a cannabis brand is to create a standalone website, albeit making money from weed videos won't be easy.
Weedtubers turned to YouTube not to get rich, but to have fun and connect with like-minded people. After YouTube classified their channels as age restricted content, weedtubers have been unable to take advantage of the second-most used search engine. While they can still score sponsorships and branded content deals, weedtubers face a long road to becoming accepted in the YouTube community. Even if channels are given back, there is no guarantee that they won't be deleted again.