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Why Russell Brand's YouTube Channel was really demonetised.
There is no conspiracy to silence Russell Brand for 'telling the truth'. It's all about the money.
Unless you have been living under a rock, you may have noticed Russell Brand has become the biggest news topic in town. In a joint investigation carried out by The Times and Channel Four’s ‘Dispatches’, Brand was accused of multiple instances of sexual assault and even rape. Russell Brand has denied the accusations.
I personally happen to find the reporting from The Times and Dispatches rather compelling, and I’m inclined to believe someone of Brand’s character may have seriously misbehaved rather than buy in to a crackpot global conspiracy to silence him for telling ‘the truth’ on YouTube. But of course, these are very serious accusations that should primarily be a police matter—and since the publication of these accusations it has been reported that the police have received an official sexual assault claim against Brand.
It can be both true that Brand is entitled to the status of 'innocent until proven guilty' from a legal perspective and that the free press has the right to publish allegations of serious criminal activity. You can listen to an ‘X (formerly Twitter) Spaces’ conversation I hosted about the published accusations against Brand here for my expanded thoughts.
Over the last few years Brand has reinvented himself as a sort of ‘health guru’ meets ‘just asking questions’, conspiracy peddler on YouTube. I upload to YouTube myself. And I’m not particularly good at it. I’ve never bothered to check my stats, nor put any effort into figuring out which topics bring me the most clicks. I’m useless with graphic design too, so I can’t even get in on that sensationalist YouTube thumbnail game either.
Russell Brand clearly has figured out the YouTube game though. He knows which topics bring in the eyeballs (and therefore ad revenue) and he knows how to reel in the very online, tin foil town audience he has cultivated. Below are some examples of his recent output:
Russell Brand has 6.6 Million subscribers on YouTube and it has been estimated that he earns around £2,000 - £4,000 per video, which could total around £1 million per year.
Well, not anymore—as it has just been reported in The Independent that YouTube has suspended the ability of Russell Brand to monetise his channel:
In a statement, YouTube said: “We have suspended monetisation on Russell Brand’s channel for violating our Creator Responsibility policy. If a creator’s off-platform behaviour harms our users, employees or ecosystem, we take action to protect the community.”
The company said that it had suspended Brand’s channel from the YouTube Partner Program “following serious allegations against the creator. This action means the channel is no longer able to monetise on YouTube”.
The decision applies to all channels that may be owned or operated by the comedian, it added.
I think demonetising Brand’s channel is probably a bad idea from an ethical and optics standpoint. It will only embolden the deeply gullible contingent of his fans that chalk all this off as ‘them’ or ‘the elites’ or ‘the media’ feeling threatened by Russell Brand’s influence. And it also lets people know that you can potentially affect someone's livelihood with accusations of criminal activity that have not yet undergone any aspect of the justice system, and maybe never will.
But this isn’t what any of this is about for YouTube. There is no conspiracy here. YouTube does not believe (as his credulous audience does) that Russell Brand is a ‘threat to the establishment’. No, it’s much more serious than that to YouTube—they believe he is a threat to their own bottom line.
YouTubers earn a tiny percentage of the advertising revenue generated by their content, with the lion’s share being pocketed by YouTube themselves. YouTube has likely now been presented with a situation whereby those big car companies or soft drink conglomerates will refuse to buy advertising space if they believe their product will appear on videos uploaded by someone that has been very publicly accused of rape by reputable media outlets. YouTube can either allow someone accused of serious criminal behaviour to keep making money on their platform, or they can risk an exodus of very lucrative advertising partners.
Whether you think Brand is being treated fairly by YouTube here is irrelevant. It’s never been about what is ‘fair’ when it comes to decisions of this sort. We should stop pretending huge, multi-billion dollar corporations care about social issues or the wider impact of their decisions. They care about their bank balance, and not much else. And this decision will do nothing to dissuade people of the embarrassing notion that Russell Brand’s hacky sophistry on YouTube was somehow a threat to ‘the establishment’.