A few weeks ago I released a video featuring my friend and fellow photographer Blair Bunting in the backseat of an F16. The video blew up on Reddit (#1 in r/Videos making it to the top 5 of the front page), was featured on Gizmodo, Jalopnik, Daily Mail, Telegraph, CNN, ABC World News with Dianne Sawyer, hundreds of other blogs and even was officially recognized by YouTube. But for reasons still unexplained to me, it has been removed from YouTube and there is nothing I can do about it.
A couple days ago, early in the morning, I received an email from YouTube that stated the following:
Regarding your account: Jaron Schneider
This following video was found in Violation of TOU #4 Section H:
Blair Bunting Flies with the Thunderbirds
"You agree not to use or launch any automated system, including without limitation, "robots," "spiders," or "offline readers," that accesses the Service in a manner that sends more request messages to the YouTube servers in a given period of time than a human can reasonably produce in the same period by using a conventional on-line web browser. Notwithstanding the foregoing, YouTube grants the operators of public search engines permission to use spiders to copy materials from the site for the sole purpose of and solely to the extent necessary for creating publicly available searchable indices of the materials, but not caches or archives of such materials. YouTube reserves the right to revoke these exceptions either generally or in specific cases. You agree not to collect or harvest any personally identifiable information, including account names, from the Service, nor to use the communication systems provided by the Service (e.g., comments, email) for any commercial solicitation purposes. You agree not to solicit, for commercial purposes, any users of the Service with respect to their Content."
For more information about how to appeal the video removal(s), visit this page in the Help Center:
As a courtesy, we have reuploaded your video(s) here:
Please note that the video exists at a new URL. Please also note that all previous views, likes, and comments have been removed.
The YouTube Team
Youtube is stating that they believe I was purchasing views, likes, comments, etc. to increase the video's supposed reach, or a source I employed did so.
The thing is, I did nothing of the sort. Though I had been approached by a huge number of sources claiming they could get me more reach and money, I ignored all these emails, working only with major trusted sources like Gannett. My only action was to upload the video to YouTube, and embed it in a post on Fstoppers. From there, it did its own thing.
Naturally, I appealed via the link they sent me. The data fields they were asking for seemed strange to me. Many were pointed to asking who I paid to help promote the video, how much I spent, and how much money per year I invest in promoting YouTube videos. Seeing as I did not do, and have not done, anything at all related to financially promoting my videos, I had to leave most of the answers with "N/A."
YouTube responded a day later with the following:
We've reviewed your appeal regarding your video(s) removal and concluded that the decision to remove of your video(s) was justified.
For your reference, TOU #4 Section H states:
You agree not to use or launch any automated system, including without limitation, "robots," "spiders," or "offline readers," that accesses the Service in a manner that sends more request messages to the YouTube servers in a given period of time than a human can reasonably produce in the same period by using a conventional on-line web browser. Notwithstanding the foregoing, YouTube grants the operators of public search engines permission to use spiders to copy materials from the site for the sole purpose of and solely to the extent necessary for creating publicly available searchable indices of the materials, but not caches or archives of such materials. YouTube reserves the right to revoke these exceptions either generally or in specific cases. You agree not to collect or harvest any personally identifiable information, including account names, from the Service, nor to use the communication systems provided by the Service (e.g., comments, email) for any commercial solicitation purposes. You agree not to solicit, for commercial purposes, any users of the Service with respect to their Content.
Services that attempt to gain views through automated means or that force or trick viewers into watching videos are not ok. This could be through a variety of means, including, among other things, deceptive layouts on third party websites that trick viewers into playing a video when they click unrelated elements on the page. It might also be serving up embedded videos instead of intended content, serving pop-unders, re-directing and/or a variety of other methods people use to try to inflate viewership.
If you are going to contract someone to help promote your content, it should be someone you absolutely trust, as you may be putting the fate of your channel (and your business on YouTube) in their hands. If they are using methods that aren’t within our terms, you will be the one to pay the price, as it will be your videos and your channel that get taken down. And don’t just take their word for it - ask the tough questions, find out how they promote your content and do your due diligence. Ultimately, you are responsible for knowing and abiding by our terms - this means understanding the nature of the traffic on your channel and making sure you are in compliance with our terms. Ignorance of bad traffic or other actions taken on your behalf may lead to your account being removed from YouTube.
The YouTube Team
YouTube, without telling me even what specifically I was accused of, had found me guilty. I paid no one for distribution. I did nothing to promote my content other than leave it on YouTube. I made no money on this video, but there is nothing I can do here. Sure, the video lives in a new URL location but that, as you can imagine, is as good as killing it. At the time of this article's publication, it has 2 views.
In addition, my account is forever on watch and, if I apparently do this again, I'll lose my license to put anything on YouTube (bearing in mind I have no idea what I actually did to deserve this, and I can't very well avoid doing it if I'm not aware of what it is).
YouTube has ignored repeated requests for specificity into this.
Luckily for me, I didn't promote the YouTube video much at all. I put the Vimeo version on Reddit, and most of the sources who linked or referenced the video pointed to Vimeo. The YouTube version really only received a small fraction of the video's total reach, and most of those views were in Europe. Most of the total hits came directly from my Vimeo or viewed through independent video players (like on DailyMail or Telegraph who were given republishing permission).
What's troubling is that there are quite a few people who make their living on videos for YouTube. Since they refuse to tell me specifically what I'm accused of (outside their vague term of use violation statement), they, to me, removed my video on a baseless accusation that I have no ability to fight. If this had happened to a popular YouTube channel, their livelihood would be in jeopardy.
If I had only uploaded my video to YouTube or promoted the YouTube link more than I did the Vimeo location, nearly all record of the video's success would have been eradicated.
I'm certainly not the first person to have problems with this. There is a discussion on Google Product Forums that shows the exasperation of other users being hit with the same message as I was. Being accused of something you're innocent of, and having no ability to prove that innocence, is an extremely frustrating situation. YouTube, rather than investigate if video owners are actually responsible for the "crime" they are being accused of, would rather just remove the video entirely. This does make sense from a business standpoint, sadly, but it doesn't make the process a good one. It makes legitimate YouTube users feel wronged. YouTube is a platform made powerful by the users. It's unfortunate that we can be treated in such a way with regards to a system that would arguably not be valuable without us.
But think about this: YouTube will ban any video that gets hit with bots or unverified views. So what is to stop anyone from paying a less-than-legitimate company (that is sourced from places like Fiverr) to send hits to a video you just don't like? That video would get removed and it would cost you only a few dollars. It's a massive loophole in the system, and one that very likely was used against me. Do I have any proof? No. And that only makes it more frustrating.
What's funny is earlier I mentioned that YouTube officially recognized the video. That post is still active, but that link, of course, is now dead.
It's just not worth it if YouTube can do this to a completely innocent person. Needless to say, I'll be uploading exclusively to my Vimeo Channel from now on. If you want to see my next projects, you should follow me there.
Oh, and if you really want to watch the video on YouTube, you can do it on CNN's official channel: