#PotPurge Round 2- YouTube Begins Deleting Cannabis Videos, Again.
YouTube, or we should say Google, has turned their AI program back on their YouTube platform in order to get rid of any videos that could compromise their community standard rules. This is not the first time YouTube has gone after online villains where cannabis-based channels and videos have been caught in the crossfire. Let’s cover this subject in some basic questions.
What is #PotPurge on YouTube? In January of 2017 YouTube came under scrutiny for their videos about jihads and terrorist recruitment. They claimed they had a very hard time filtering which videos are problematic and which are okay, so they turned the powerful Google AI bots on the YouTube platform to remove problematic videos that may be against community guidelines. Cannabis and marijuana-based video channels got caught in the cross-fire and many pot-based channels were removed without warning. These channels received multiple strikes in a matter of 24 hours, all appeals were denied within minutes of filing them (no human review could do that, so a machine response), and the videos and channels were removed around April 1st, 2017.
The good news is that the cannabis community rallied and got enough voice to get YouTube to put these videos back up and put channels back online after 90 days.
Why would YouTube be doing this again? – Remember what caused the first #PotPurge? YouTube was under fire for jihadist videos, so they went overboard and removed just about all videos about questionable subjects. In April of 2019 YouTube came under fire for comments on videos of children that were put on YouTube. The comment sections of some of the videos were filled with pedophile-like comments and users’ discussions. YouTube responded by disabling comments on all videos that depict children. Was this done manually? Of course not, it was done by Google AI, and it appears that cannabis may be caught in the algorithmic cleansing again. The first time it was jihadist videos and now it is child predator comments that is causing the community guidelines tightening up.
Can you do anything about it? Yes, and no. You should file an appeal right away to the video and explain why your video is not promoting illegal drug use or violating community standards. If your channel is taken down, file as many appeals explain why your channel is not violating community standards and ask to turn it back on. It will not get turned on overnight, but if may be down the road. If it is not turned on in 100 days, it may not be coming back.
The other advice we can give you? Don’t worry about it. This is part of life in the cannabis space. You should expect Facebook accounts, Instagram accounts, and YouTube accounts to be banned and removed. It is still the Wild West of traffic in the cannabis space and worrying about something you have no control over is not going to help you sleep better at night. Have back up plans, other video hosting sites, work on good content, that is all stuff you can control. Many media companies change their mind on cannabis content by the month. One-month Facebook is removing legal cannabis pages, the next they are saying they are thinking of allowing more cannabis content in legal areas and maybe even allowing ads or sponsored posts. CBD is now going to be in 800 CVS stores thanks to Curaleaf, so we know how this all ends in a few years, you just have to play the game the best you can before the Federal law is changed.
Is This Good Business for YouTube? – If you step back to the 50,000-foot level, this is bad business for YouTube. Cannabis and marijuana-based searches are only going to increase ten-fold over the next few years as the world legalizes cannabis. What is YouTube going to show when someone types in “Does CBD help with anxiety”, “Does cannabis cure cancer”, “Strongest Indica strains”, “How do you grow marijuana”? Is Google not going to show videos in the search results? What will happen when a user types in those search queries and clicks on “VIDEOS” under RESULTS? Are they not going to show any video results, or are they going to show the same videos they just deleted off their platform only loaded up on other high-ranking video hosting sites? So, the user will see the exact same video you just deleted, in the same search results area, but just hosted on Daily Motion or Vimeo?
The other theoretical question for Google/YouTube is that, are you going to show text results for “Best strains to grow indoors?”. If you are going to show text results for that query from cannabis sites, why can you not show a video result? Where do you draw the line on, “It’s okay for someone to read the article about cannabis and grow lights, but not see a video of someone reading that same article.” So, text results showing the answer are okay but video results showing the answer are not allowed?
You can see the rabbit hole you go down once you start deciding in what FORMAT the questionable information is being displayed in and transmitted to a user. Text listings from other websites are okay, videos will be pulled from other platforms and displayed, but not your own YouTube videos?
Were There Any Warnings on This Purge? – You had some hints. As mentioned, YouTube was under new scrutiny for not being able to control the comments on videos depicting kids and had to ban all comments on videos with kids in it. The YouTube creator studio team also did a whole new video series on how they have just revamped their “Strikes on Your Channel” reviews and how copyright strikes and community guideline strikes were going to completely overhauled. You knew nothing good was going to come of that for the cannabis industry.
What Can You Do to Prepare? – If you are new to the cannabis industry or haven’t figured it out yet, always have backups. In a grey area niche, which we will still be in until the Federal law changes, you need to have back up social accounts, back up video hosting plans, even back up blog servers and such. You just can’t control what company X, Y, and Z are going to do with your content on any given month. Getting traffic is very hard in this niche right now. Facebook has cut down business page reach by 80% in general and even more so for cannabis companies who don’t create any revenue for them. Instagram is notorious for closing cannabis-themed accounts and is also owned by Facebook. Google did a Medic Update at the end of 2018 that wiped out traffic for almost all stand-alone cannabis sites like Herb, High Times, and Massroots. YouTube has done one #potpurge per year basically and wiped out cannabis videos and content, only to restore them a few months later. You just never know, cannabis is still the wild west in many ways, including traffic and platforms.