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Markiplier stream shows how out-of-touch YouTube is

Mark Fischbach, known online as Markiplier, began his "A Heist with Markiplier" special on Nov. 6. Hardcore subscribers could purchase a $4.99 monthly subscription and help navigate the course of the livestream by "voting on which way they wanted to go with emotes," or emoticons in the live chat: "one red paddle, and one green paddle." What should have been an interactive experience for users and the YouTuber went haywire when the site banned hundreds of accounts that "spammed" the emotes. An hour and a half into the livestream, Fischbach and his moderators caught onto this trend, but the damage had been done by the time the viewers were warned.

On Nov. 8, Fischbach addressed the problem in his video "YouTube has a huge problem..." and expressed his frustration with the platform.

The termination of accounts would be infuriating enough on its own. However, many people whose accounts were restricted or even terminated had their appeals denied.

People's subscriptions that they paid money for disappeared. People's content vanished. Their engagement with the platform, gone.

The problem runs even deeper than people's YouTube accounts being terminated. Not only were people's YouTube accounts being terminated; their entire Google accounts were as well.

Markiplier said in a video, "What are they going to explain to their boss: 'Oh, sorry, I can't get into my Google account; I was at a Markiplier livestream'?"

The following Monday, Fischbach uploaded "YouTube's Big Problem --- UPDATE" and gave his viewers an update on the situation. He thanked the YouTube team for being cooperative and even praised Susanne Daniels, the Head of Content at YouTube, for showing genuine concern.

"There are a lot of people at YouTube who genuinely care about the platform," said Fischbach, Daniels being one of them. This leads to the question: what is going on with YouTube if they're not run by money-hungry corporate drones?

In this case, the incident was triggered by an anti-spam measure running amok. A software engineer for YouTube took to Reddit to give a brief rundown of the situation. In this post, the user highlights one of YouTube's significant shortcomings: it is out of touch with its user base.

"The appeals should not have been denied," said the post. "The problem is that... for someone not familiar with the social context, it absolutely does look like (real) spam." This, in combination with the extensive size of the platform, triggered the incident.

YouTube is no stranger to accusations of not understanding its consumers. In 2017, many creators found themselves becoming victims of the "Adpocalypse" where controversial content and entire channels were becoming demonetized. In a statement, the platform cited using "machine learning to determine if a video meets our advertiser-friendly guidelines" and publicly offered to send appeals to human reviewers should the creators feel that their content is mistakenly flagged.

However, YouTube failed to give every appeal the attention that the creators deserved, only having appeals manually approved should the videos have at least 1,000 views and come from channels with at least 10,000 subscribers. Even if the appeal passed successfully and the video is re-monetized, the video might have passed peak viewership and thus missed the opportunity to garner revenue at the right time.

Demonetization continues to be a pressing issue for creators, especially those who rely on the platform for their livelihoods. The peak of Adpocalypse may be in the past, but YouTube's algorithms for choosing what content to demonetize are still flawed. The platform has expanded to a scale that the company has failed to keep up with, and the lack of understanding of its users further digs its grave.

YouTube was probably not created with the intention of becoming the pinnacle of content creating that it is today. With its expansive growth and large user base, it's understandable that there will be hiccups. However, YouTube needs to prioritize getting in touch with its user base, especially if it wants to stay relevant.