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The Youtubers' union just wants Google to give them the rulebook

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Google has blinked in the ongoing attempt to organize Youtube creators in a new organization called Fairtube, under the umbrella of the powerful German trade union IG Metall. After cordially ignoring the union -- which has German law on its side -- and its countdown clock for Youtube to come to the table, Google finally reached out to the organizers, with only eight hours to go. Then, at the last minute, the company changed the terms of the meeting, insisting that no actual Youtubers could be present -- only union officials. The union's demands are pretty reasonable: they just want Youtube to explain what the rules are. That is, which topics will get your video demonetized or have its comments frozen, what words are you allowed or prohibited from saying, and so on. There is a rulebook -- leaks reveal that Youtube's content moderation makes reference to some kind of official policy -- but it's clearly not the same guidelines that Youtube provides to the creators who make the work that powers the site. These creators say that they can work for weeks or months on something for their channels, only to have it demonetized, blocked, or locked for commenting for reasons that they struggle to comprehend. This is why so many Youtube videos end with exhortations to like or subscribe or comment -- Youtubers have folk-theories about what makes a video acceptable or unacceptable to the black box that moderates their creative labor. It’s tempting (and easy) to paint Google and YouTube as worker-stomping monopolists, but not even disgruntled creators see them that way. Read the rest

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