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YouTube Explains Which Profanities and ‘Inappropriate Language’ Are OK for Ad-Supported Videos

YouTube provided more clarity about how it determines when videos with “vulgarity and inappropriate language” are eligible for ads — and which words and usage contexts it deems just freaking advertiser-unfriendly.

The Google-owned video site has long had a policy specifying that videos that include profanities and strong language may be “demonetized,” or stripped of ads. But content creators have been frustrated about the opacity of the guideline, wondering WTF is kosher and what could result in them losing them revenue.

Now YouTube has spelled out in more detail what’s allowed in ad-supported videos, in a video posted last week on the site’s Creator Insider channel. YouTube classifies usage of profanities and harsh language in three tiers: one, words that are safe in ad-supported content; two, usage that will potentially result in advertisers blocking ads; and three, usage that’s completely unmonetizable.

In the “totally safe” category is light or mild profanity, including “shit,” “hell” and “damn,” as well as the occasional use of strong profanity (like the f-bomb) if it’s bleeped out, according to YouTube.

The second area includes moderate and strong profanity such as “f—,” “motherf—–,” “a–hole,” “douche-bag,” “cock,” “dick,” “pussy,” “bullshit,” “ho,” “slut,” and “son of a bitch.” YouTube says that “many brands may choose not to advertise” in videos with that language. In addition, it says frequent use of strong profanity, especially during the beginning part of a video, increases the likelihood that content will be demonetized.

Sure-fire ways to have YouTube demonetize videos is to include medium or strong profanity in the title or thumbnail image; or if a video features “strong profanity used repeatedly in a hateful or derogatory way.” In addition, videos with racial slurs, including the n-word, are categorically excluded from the ad-monetization program, according to YouTube.

YouTube has updated its advertising-friendly guidelines document with the examples and explanation about profanity. The move comes two years after it started issuing notifications to creators when their videos ran afoul of its “advertiser-friendly” policies and also launched a formal way to appeal decisions about videos found to be inappropriate for advertising.

Note that YouTube provided concrete examples only for English — so what’s ad-friendly usage and what isn’t in other languages remains an educated guess.

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