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In the news: Clarifying how we monetize social justice content

Since the launch of YouTube 16 years ago, our platform has been a place where people come together, and we see this more than ever during difficult times.

Over the past year at YouTube, we’ve increased our commitment and focus on social justice and equity. Since the launch of YouTube 16 years ago, our platform has been a place where people come together, and we see this more than ever during difficult times. In times of social unrest, YouTube is a place where people come to make their voices heard, find community, and advocate for change. 

You may have seen some recent reporting about our ad placement process that suggests that YouTube prevents advertisers from running campaigns targeting social issues and movements like Black Lives Matter. 

We want to make two things clear:

  • Videos about topics like Black Lives Matter, Black culture, and Black excellence, can and do monetize on YouTube, along with topics related to a wide range of social justice issues. 

  • We do not allow targeting of advertising against hateful terms. Content that is hateful towards Black and other marginalized communities, including videos with themes of “white nationalism” or other offensive topics, are not eligible to monetize on YouTube. And when we find this content on our platform, we remove it.

But while our policies are clear, our systems sometimes fall short, though we work quickly to correct them. We want to clarify how our ad placement system works, and address the issue at the heart of these concerns, which is what kinds of content are able to earn revenue on YouTube.

This is how the ad placement tool works. Advertisers enter words or phrases, the tool then suggests videos that could be related to the terms they search. The tool has no impact on which content can or cannot monetize. 

Reporters entered offensive terms to see which ones returned suggestions. Though our system did block many hate terms, we failed to catch some others. We regret that these terms were searchable in our ad placement tool and have corrected this gap. But we want to be clear: this does not mean that the videos that surfaced were eligible to run advertising, or that advertisers can run campaigns connected to those offensive terms -- and in fact, neither of these things happened.  And much of the content that was suggested was news stories related to those issues, and not hateful content. 

We’ve also had some questions about why terms that are not hateful or harmful were blocked in the ad placement tool. Search terms may be blocked because we have detected the potential for abuse, such as creators seeking to run ads against another creator’s channel to showcase an opposing viewpoint. At times, we may block terms, even temporarily, that seem counterintuitive, but it is done to protect our creators, our community, and promote user safety. 

We will continue to take action to dismantle embedded racism on our platform. We have hundreds of employees working on social justice efforts every day and we’re committed to tackling these issues over the long term.

A critical part of our commitment to social justice has been to ensure that creators can build thriving channels on our platform, earning revenue to sustain their businesses and their creativity. Many advertisers have made public commitments to support diversity and racial equity. Similarly, their customers come to YouTube to watch content on these topics and to hear from creators. 

To help ensure that creators are able to earn the full value from their videos, we have been partnering with our advertisers and their agencies to help them expand their advertising campaigns on YouTube to reach wider and more diverse audiences, by reviewing their Brand Suitability settings such as their keyword exclusions. We also have a dedicated Multicultural Strategy & Sales team whose remit is Advertiser Cultural Effectiveness, with a focus on increasing revenue opportunities for diverse creators and meeting inclusive advertising goals for advertisers via our premium CultureLab service, which delivers culture-first and privacy-first insights, inclusive creative best practices and inclusive media solutions. 

Black creators and artists have and continue to play an important role in shaping the culture on YouTube, propelling our platform forward. We are invested in these creators, artists, and their stories. And we will continue to ensure that they can succeed on YouTube.