YouTube is shutting down, and issuing “strikes” against, accounts that feature marijuana or marijuana-adjacent content at an unprecedented rate. The crackdown is leaving many in the community who’ve built large subscriber bases and revenue streams wondering, “what the hell changed?”
Dontae, founder and executive producer of the cannabis entertainment and education production company Loaded Up Entertainment, told High Times that his page received three strikes over the last few months, resulting in a deletion of its YouTube channel last week. A video from the channel’s educational series about the best munchies to eat while high was the final strike, Dontae was informed days after the deletion.
— Loaded Up Entertainment (@loadedup_ent) April 24, 2018
“We are definitely considering moving to other platforms,” he told us. That might include sites like The WeedTube, which was created in response to cannabis censorship on YouTube. Loaded Up’s deletion “gave us an awakening call that social media platforms are just tools for us to use—and that you have to go really go for a platform where people can go that’s not going to be censored out.”
Loaded Up—which had about 200,000 subscribers before the deletion—is one of numerous channels producing weed-related videos that have been shut down in recent weeks. Other channels have seen an uptick in specific videos “flagged for review” and “deleted” due to alleged community guideline violations.
What Does YouTube’s Community Guidelines Actually Say?
Videos that promote “violent or dangerous acts” or show “drug abuse, underage drinking and smoking, or bomb making” violate YouTube’s community guidelines. Well, when it comes to content featuring marijuana, which is legal in some form in 29 states, that might seem subjective. Do educational videos about how to roll a joint qualify as promoting dangerous acts? Do first-person reviews of pipes show drug abuse according to the video company’s standards?
For its part, YouTube has remained silent on the increased enforcement of its ambiguous community guidelines targeting weed-related pages. We reached out for comment, but the company did not respond by the time of publication.
There Are Some Theories About the Purging
Last year, reports surfaced that showed YouTube was running ads on “objectionable content,” including videos depicting violence, promoting hate-speech, and showing disturbing scenes involving underage children. Numerous corporate advertisers took part in boycotts against YouTube in response, and the company has since made repeated promises to increase enforcement of its community guidelines to ensure that ads don’t get placed on improper content.
Then, of course, there was the Logan Paul scandal earlier this year. When the vlogger posted a video of a man who’d committed suicide (since deleted), public outrage led to a rare open letter from YouTube. The company said it was “listening to everything [viewers have been] saying” and acknowledged that “the actions of one creator can affect the entire community.”
It’s taken us a long time to respond, but we’ve been listening to everything you’ve been saying. We know that the actions of one creator can affect the entire community, so we’ll have more to share soon on steps we’re taking to ensure a video like this is never circulated again.
— YouTube (@YouTube) January 9, 2018
Again, it pledged to take actions to prevent similar content from being circulated.
Is it possible that weed accounts are vanishing from YouTube as a casualty of these new technologies and enforcement directives? Has Google, YouTube’s parent company, received negative feedback from advertisers whose commercials appeared on marijuana content? We don’t know! Because they haven’t told us—or the content creators—aside from sending out the standard community guideline violation notice.
Coral Reefer, a globetrotting influencer who posts videos of her marijuana adventures on a page with about 120,000 subscribers, told us that YouTube’s apparent targeting of weed pages puts them squarely “on the losing side of the cannabis conversation.” Her channel has been spared in the purging so far, but she recently received a “strike” against a video of her making edibles.
“With or without the corporation’s involvement, the truth and information we have to share about cannabis will reach more and more people, and instead of being a tool to spread a message for legalization, they have cannabis content creators scrambling to create backup channels, or leaving the network entirely,” Coral said. “YouTube inspired me to believe my voice mattered, and I won’t sit down and be silenced now that they’ve changed their mind.”