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YouTube may fix controversial policy to demonetize videos with swearing

But the service won't say what it's doing.

Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

YouTube is rethinking its approach to colorful language after an uproar. In a statement to The Verge, the Google brand says it's "making some adjustments" to a profanity policy it unveiled in November after receiving blowback from creators. The rule limits or removes ads on videos where someone swears within the first 15 seconds or has "focal usage" of rude words throughout, and is guaranteed to completely demonetize a clip if swearing either occurs in the first seven seconds or dominates the content.

While that policy wouldn't necessarily be an issue by itself, YouTube has been applying the criteria to videos uploaded before the new rule took effect. As Kotaku explains, YouTube has demonetized old videos for channels like RTGame. Producers haven't had success appealing these decisions, and the company won't let users edit these videos to pass muster.

Communication has also been a problem. YouTube doesn't usually tell violators exactly what they did wrong, and creators tend to only learn about the updated policy after the service demonetizes their work. There are also concerns about inconsistency. Some videos are flagged while others aren't, and a remonetized video might lose that income a day later. Even ProZD's initial video criticizing the policy, which was designed to honor the rules, lost ad revenue after two days.

YouTube hasn't said just what it plans to change, so it's not clear if the revised policy will satisfy those affected. For now, creators won't have much recourse beyond watching their use of cuss words. The uncertainty isn't necessarily prompting an exodus, but it is leading some video makers to reduce their dependence on YouTube as a source of income.