YouTube Softens its Stance on Profanity in Content and its Impact on Monetization

YouTube has announced an update to its incoming policy on profanity in video uploads, and how that will effect monetization, based creator feedback that its pending update was unfair and would have a significant impact on their revenue potential.

Back in November, YouTube unveiled an update to its Advertiser Friendly Guidelines, including new rules around the presentation of inappropriate language and violence in uploaded clips. As a result, many gaming creators, in particular, found themselves at risk of violating of the rules, because the games that they’re streaming sometimes feature violence, while creators also expressed frustration at how the new rules around profanity would limit monetization in all videos that featured bad language within the first 15 seconds.

The rules would also apply to previously uploaded content, hence the outsized impact on monetization.

In response to feedback, YouTube has now updated its approach, which will take into account these concerns, and provide a more lenient weighting of profanity in video clips.

As per YouTube:

Effective March 7, we are making the following changes:

  • Usage of moderate profanity at any time in the video is now eligible for green icons [monetization]. 
  • Usage of stronger profanity, like the f-word in the first 7 seconds or repeatedly throughout the majority of the video can now receive limited ads (under the November update, this would have received no ad revenue).
  • Video content using profanity, moderate or strong, after the first 7 seconds will now be eligible for green icons, unless used repetitively throughout the majority of the video (under the November update, this would have received no ad revenue). 
  • We’ve also clarified our guidance on how profanity in music is treated; moderate or strong profanity used in background music, backing tracks, intro/outro music can now earn full ad revenue (previously this would have received no ad revenue).
  • Use of any profanity (moderate or stronger profanity) in titles and thumbnails will still be demonetized and cannot run ads, as was the case before the update in November.

So the new rules will allow higher levels of profanity, which will greatly reduce the impact on YouTube creators.

That’ll be a relief for many creators who faced the daunting task of updating their entire back catalog, and submitting each clip for review, in order to maintain monetization in the app.

Though it’s still a bit strange. Why the first seven seconds? Why is that the threshold at which YouTube has decided it is or isn’t acceptable to include bad language in your clips?

I assume that this is related to potential exposure levels, and the fact that most users don’t watch complete clips. But still, seems odd.

There’s also no update on violence in clips, which will still have some impact on the gaming community.

But even so, creators will be happier with the update, with all of their videos that had been tagged for demonetization set to be re-reviewed by March 10th.

For advertisers, that also means that there are changes coming to your ad guidelines, though you can control your ad placements and content exposure within Google Ads Manager.

You can read more about YouTube’s updated profanity guidelines here.

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