In what is seemingly a series of unprovoked attacks against well-established YouTube Creators, the popular video sharing platform has suddenly started deleting channels associated with weed. Although warning messages were sent to some, dozens of cannabis-related accounts started disappearing from the website last week prompting a public outcry of injustice and censorship.
While the company has yet to release an official statement about the sudden change of heart, many are left wondering exactly what they have done to prompt the action. In the emails notifying the account owners about their subsequent account deletion, YouTube officials only referenced violations of their Community Guidelines. YouTube's policy prohibits videos which contain nudity or sexual content, violent or graphic content, harmful or dangerous content, hateful content, threats, spam, misleading metadata, or scams.
However, with cannabis legal in some form in more than half the United States, this leaves room for interpretation. Even educational and informative channels including Leafbuyer's YouTube channel were deleted as well, despite not portraying abuse or even consumption. In fact, there's little rhyme or reason to the channels which are being deleted. In addition to the strictly informational channel hosted by Leafbuyer, similar channels hosted by Leafly and Pot Guide were also removed from the video super-host, while channels like Weedmaps, High Times, and Weediquette have been spared, thus far.
Weed and YouTube have had a long, agreeable relationship until recently. While executives at YouTube have remained silent to the specifics in regards to their decision to remove cannabis related content, it's no secret YouTube is on a mission to appease their advertisers. A CNN report published on April 19th showed YouTube advertising for more than 300 companies on controversial hate topics such as neo-Nazi, white supremacist videos, pedophilia related videos, and North Korean propaganda.
Clearly, the report has prompted action by YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, as she stated her desire to "stay on the right side of history" during the company's Brandcast event in New York last week. She claimed to have more than 10,000 Google employees addressing violent content on the site throughout the course of 2018 in an attempt to remove some questionable content.
Protection or Censorship?
While most of us can appreciate the desire to bring a more positive message to the internet, the question naturally becomes, where do we draw the line? Watching a teenager tempt death while chewing up a Tide pod is dangerous, stupid, and definitely NOT entertaining or educational, but few would argue that a video explaining the differences between the effects of THC and CBD in cannabis is harming anyone, breaking any laws, or spewing hate.
Obviously, no one wants to give a pedophile a platform. However, censorship is a slippery slope. While Wojcicki may have good intentions, 10,000 humans, with 10,000 different belief systems, reviewing video content means there are 10,000 biased opinions making judgment calls based on a set of guidelines intended to appease their sponsors.
So, Where Does Weed Fit In?
Despite asking for an explanation, Leafbuyer and Weedtubers are only being met with vague references to the community guidelines which haven't changed. YouTube considers these categories for inappropriate content:
Nudity or sexual content ? while smoking weed may be considered an aphrodisiac and some online personalities may be scantily clad ? the channels in question did not contain any nudity or sexual content.
Violent or graphic content ? none of the channels contained violence unless you count the hurt that was put on some munchies after filming was over.
Harmful or dangerous content ? educating people about a topic is neither dangerous or harmful. Besides, clearly, the website thinks drinking an entire bottle of Jack Daniels in one sitting is perfectly acceptable. Remember death is not possible with cannabis ? alcohol poisoning is a very real thing.
Hateful content ? the only hate you'll find in an educational video about cannabis is usually directed towards the establishment regarding prohibition or pharmaceutical companies zombifying the nation.
Threats ? ever seen a video which says, "HEY... SMOKE POT OR ELSE!" Neither have we.
The public opinion of cannabis has been steadily changing for the last several years. Current statistics show 61% of Americans are in favor of full legalization. So, one can only wonder if the decision to remove educational, supportive information about the herb was the right decision for the social media giant.
As luck would have it, YouTube is not the only website on the internet which allows video sharing, and many canna-businesses are starting to jump ship. Many are taking their channels to Vimeo or other video hosting sites who may not have the 1.5 billion subscribers YouTube currently has, but allow for more freedom of content. The move for stricter censorship could force subscribers to move to other video-sharing platforms to continue getting the media they want to watch.
Some companies, like Leafbuyer, are creating their own platform to host their video content. This way, companies have total control over their content and they know it will not be taken down, without warning. We created Leafbuyer TV to host our video content after our informational Youtube account was suddenly deleted.
Where there's a will, there's a way. While weed and YouTube may be parting ways, this is clearly an opportunity for another.