I was having a fantastic day yesterday (Feb 4, 2012.) I had just uploaded a video review of a newly acquired Skytex Skypad Alpha2 7-inch Android Tablet to my YouTube channel–cnymike–and shortly after that I responded to several questions and comments that subscribers to my channel had published. Just another normal day for me, doing what I love to do and enjoying the social apsects of my YouTube channel as well as enjoying being a “Partner” with YouTube.
A few of my reviews had tens-of-thousands of views with spirited comments, lots of “thumbs up” counts and overall good feedback. I have to disclose that I am also an avid Top-25 product reviewer on Amazon, having reviewed over 302 products with an overall helpful rating of 95%.
I take my product reviewing very seriously. I am balanced in my reviews, pragmatic and sensible. I would never knowingly post a product review, or any video for that matter that was in poor taste or anything of objectionable content including nudity, profanity, slanderous statements or anything generally considered to be offensive or in poor taste.
So then, it was with great shock that I received an email with the subject “YouTube Video Notification.” It came in Saturday, February 4, 2012 at precisely 9:31 PM. I had not noticed the email sitting in my inbox at first because I was distracted by the fact that I could not get new mail from my Gmail account. Outlook kept popping up a dialog box saying that my login information was incorrect and it could not retrieve my email from Gmail. This was odd because I had been checking my email all day long with no issues and to my knowledge, I had done nothing that would have affected my login credentials. It was then that I realized something had gone terribly wrong. When I attempted to login to my YouTube account, I was confronted with a disturbing message that said…
Unable to access a Google product
If you’ve been redirected to this page from a particular product, it means that your access to this product has been suspended. Read on for more information.
Your access to this Google product has been suspended because of a perceived violation of either the Google Terms of Service or product-specific Terms of Service. For specific product guidelines, please visit the homepage of each Google product you’re interested in for a link to its Terms of Service.
Google reserves the right to:
Disable an account for investigation.
Suspend a Google Account user from accessing a particular product or the entire Google Accounts system, if the Terms of Service or product-specific policies are violated.
Terminate an account at any time, for any reason, with or without notice.
I was in shock. What had I done? How could this happen? I had no advance notice, no warning, no nothing. All of a sudden an innocent review I had done was flagged as inappropriate. It was, “Review of ICON Rogue 1 LED Flashlight” and it was flagged as being inappropriate and in violation of Community Guidelines. No specific reason was given however. And I can’t think of any reason it could be in violation of anything.
The email from YouTube continued to say that my account has received one Community Guidelines warning strikes, which will expire in six months. It went on to say that Additional violations may result in the temporary disabling of my ability to post content to YouTube and/or the permanent termination of my account.
What is most baffling is the apparent, immediate termination of my YouTube account. There was no other video that was flagged as far as I know, nor was there any reason for any of my videos to be flagged. And no explanation from YouTube to help me gain an insight how they could come down on me with such forcefulness for something I wasn’t even given the opportunity to know about or be able to correct.
BAM! Account Terminated. End of Story!
It’s like having a best friend, someone you just spent the afternoon with having a good time, grabbing a cup of coffee, talking. Then in the evening when you try to call your friend, the phone of your friend has been disconnected and a recording says, “Your friend no longer likes you and you have been permanently banned from ever calling him again.” No warning, no idea of what you said or did to deserve being treated like you did something incredibly inexcusable, malicious or malevolent.
Of course, I immediately began Googling for more information on this account termination and found other people discussing it. In particular I found this video blog post at “Marketing Online Today” website. The tale being told there was eerily similar to mine.
Checking Twitter yielded more tweets of people discovering an ever growing number of YouTube channels being terminated.
My recourse is limited. I did follow a couple links on YouTube that eventually got me to the Partner Network page where an online form was available to contest the decision to terminate my account, but I’ve gotten no response from that yet. Sadly there do not seem to be many more options available to me.
When I realize that several years of dedicated hard work, creativity and artful posting of videos including many nature videos have instantly disappeared from YouTube due to the termination of my account, it saddens me greatly.
The only thing I can think of as a possibility to explain this is that perhaps my account got hacked. If this actually happened, then maybe the perpetrator altered my video review in some way. That is about the only scenario I can think of that would result in a video of mine being flagged as inappropriate in some way. Otherwise, I know what the video was that I uploaded to YouTube and it was an innocent, straightforward review of an LED flashlight. It’s almost laughable to think that the review could be flagged for anything at all. It had been up on YouTube for well over a year and had already been viewed thousands of times… no complaints from anyone. How is it possible that all of a sudden my flashlight video review is against Community Guidelines?
It was suggested to me that Amazon Affiliate links in a video description are grounds for one-time, immediate termination of accounts. I did use Amazon Affiliate links in some of my video reviews. I did review guidelines and under spam, did not find a clear reference to affiliate links being barred. If it was the Affiliate links that caused my account to be terminated I think I should have at least had an opportunity to remove them–something that I would have done immediately.
YouTube, we were partners. I agreed to abide by your rules when I signed up and I did to be the best of my knowledge. You know, a partnership demands respect from each participant. I don’t feel the respect I gave you was reciprocated. You accused me of something unilaterally and gave me no opportunity to defend myself or simply remove the material that you deemed in violation of your guidelines. That’s no partnership.
I would do whatever it takes to get my channel back. My subscribers have been cutoff. You have severed an important social link that I had with all the people that respected my viewpoints, appreciated the time and effort I put into my reviews and engaged in conversation about my reviews by asking further questions or expressing their gratitude.
I’m disappointed more than these words can possibly convey.
Don’t you at least owe me an explanation and a chance for redemption?
UPDATE: Feb. 6, 2012 – I’ve made 6 attempts to reach someone at Google/YouTube. I used their online form for YouTube Partners and also used a link that alerts them that I am requesting a review of their decision. Complete silence on the other end.
Code of Conduct
“Don’t be evil.” Googlers generally apply those words to how we serve our users. But “Don’t be evil” is much more than that. Yes, it’s about providing our users unbiased access to information, focusing on their needs and giving them the best products and services that we can. But it’s also about doing the right thing more generally — following the law, acting honorably and treating each other with respect.
UPDATE: I do have an update to this issue: