If you’ve been following me on Twitter or my community posts on YouTube than you know that my video on Holocaust Denial has been deleted. If you look elsewhere on the site, you’ll notice that the post for that video is still up, and there is a functioning video still there. I will explain everything you need to know, and some of my thoughts on the matter up to now.
I started work on the video in early December 2018. A pair of friends and myself were going to read Deborah Lipstadt’s Denying the Holocaust and discuss it like some kind of book club. As I read the book I got the feeling that this would make a video, so I began to take notes on what I was reading, and once that book was finished I went and found more books about Holocaust Denial and took notes on those as well. Shortly after the start of the new year I reorganized those notes into an outline for a video, and then turned that outline into a script, which was eventually recorded and edited into the video that was released and then deleted.
Before I even filmed the video, though, I created an intro that serviced as a trailer for the upcoming video, but this trailer wasn’t made public. The original trailer possessed footage the had watermarks from a stock video company called Critical Past. I was waiting to get some footage from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) to replace that watermarked footage. Before I got that footage, however, YouTube responded negatively to the video, which had not been made public, and was only shared with Patrons and a few other creators whom I was seeking feedback from. Not only did they demonetize the video entirely, but they also age restricted it, meaning that the video could not be seen by any user who’s account said they were under 18, or on restricted mode, or at schools. This incident felt ominous.
I eventually got the footage from the USHMM and proceeded to film and record audio for the documentary. On Monday, February 2nd, 2019, I uploaded the second version of the trailer, which was identical to the first in all ways except the Critical Past watermark was no longer there. It didn’t take long for YouTube to detect the video, but unlike last time the video was just given the yellow dollar sign marker that meant few or no ads would play on the video. That meant it was as good as demonetized, but the fact that it wasn’t age restricted was preferable to what happened to the first version.
On Wednesday, February 6th, 2019, I uploaded the first version of the video. I avoided putting any reference to the Holocaust in the title or tags of the video in order to avoid it getting caught by the demonetizers. Before it could be caught by a yellow dollar sign it was caught for a copyright dispute filed by Fullscreen on behalf of the Oxford Union. I had used footage from a debate on Holocaust Denial Criminalization that featured Deborah Lipstadt on their channel. I used a fair chunk of the video, so instead of getting caught up in a month long fight over copyrights I decided to go back into Premiere Pro, edit down the amount of their footage I used, and reupload it to YouTube. This, the second version, made it’s way onto YouTube, and was faced with an immediate yellow dollar sign, which I appealed.
While waiting on that appeal I watched the video on YouTube’s player and I heard some sound issues that I wasn’t happy with. So I went back into Premiere Pro, fixed that problem, and uploaded a third version to YouTube. This third version would also be picked up by the yellow dollar sign, and thus I was waiting on both the second and third version’s judgements to come in. I had announced the video’s release for Friday, February 8th. My plan was to publish the one with better audio if neither had been approved by Friday morning, but as it just so happened, late Thursday night the second version was approved, and so Friday at noon I published that version.
The reception was largely positive. It wasn’t a viral success, but I was satisfied with the final product, and up to this point it is the video I’m most proud of. A couple days later YouTube would decide that the third version, which was exactly the same as the second except for better audio, was deemed not advertiser friendly, and therefore kept its yellow dollar sign. On February 13th the Associate Press filed a copyright claim for some of the footage I was using in the video. I filed a dispute, claiming that the work I did was substantially transformative. I felt good about the video, and with it I went on to start a tradition I hoped to make a regular thing after uploading a bigger video, a live stream. In that live stream, (streamed on Thursday, February 14th, 2019) I answered questions about the video, and anything else the viewers asked. Things were looking well, that is, until Monday Morning.
On Monday, February 18th, 2019, I received an email from YouTube, in which they said, “As you may know, our Community Guidelines describe which content we allow – and don’t allow – on YouTube. Your video ‘Appropriating Legitimacy: The History and Evolution of Holocaust Denial’ was flagged for review. Upon review, we’ve determined that it violates our guidelines. We’ve removed it from YouTube and assigned a Community Guidelines strike, or temporary penalty, to your account.”
This was the first time I had ever had a video deleted by YouTube, or ever had a strike of any kind on my channel. With a single strike in place, I can’t conduct any livestreams. Now, Livestreams hadn’t been a big part of my channel up to that point, but I was planning on making them a bigger part in the near future. So I appealed both the deletion and the community strike, but at this point I have no idea how either are going in the appeals process.
I filed the appeal for the video deletion before I was given the full information about what guideline I had supposedly violated. When I checked, it said I had violated their Community Guidelines on Hate Speech. Their guidelines says I can’t post content that either “Encourage violence against individuals or groups based on the attributes noted above,” which included things like race, gender, sex, orientation, etc, along with forbidding “Dehumanizing individuals or groups by calling them subhuman, comparing them to animals, insects, pests, disease, or any other non-human entity.” Appropriating Legitimacy did neither of these things, but don’t worry, it gets better. Not only does my video not violate any of their hate speech policies, but YouTube actually makes an explicit exception for it on the platform.
Under the subheading of “Educational Content” the Hate Speech policy gives two kinds of exceptions, “a documentary about a hate group: Educational content that isn’t supporting the group or promoting ideas would be allowed” and “A documentary about how theories have changed over time, even if it includes theories about the inferiority or superiority of specific groups, would be allowed because its educational.” Appropriating Legitimacy would have at the very least fallen under the first exception, and arguably under the second. The video was, and is, perfectly suitable for YouTube under its own guidelines.
So why did it happen? Well, at the moment I have three hypotheses. Since YouTube already said the video was advertiser friendly, we know it probably wasn’t an automatic detection by their system that got it flagged. This means that the video must have been flagged by a user. Given this I see two possible options; Option A, someone who didn’t watch the video saw the words Holocaust Denial in the title and decided to flag it, believing that it was actually pro-Holocaust Denial. Option B, someone supportive of Holocaust Denial watched the video, got angry that I mocked them, and decided to falsely flag the video in order to get it taken down. There’s always the possibility of Option C, someone on YouTube dislikes me personally and so they decided to flag the video. Of these three possibilities, Option A seems most likely to me.
I discount option C because I don’t think there’s anyone on the platform that hates me enough to care. Also, I would suspect that if there were people who disliked me personally enough to do this to one video, than they would have done it to other videos. I also discount Option B because I did some snooping around some white supremacist websites, and 4Chan, using incognito mode, and I found nothing referencing my video. A few white supremacists left comments on the video, but not nearly enough to do this. I suspect that the white supremacist community has been rather unaware of my video. This leads me to believe that the most likely answer is that someone who didn’t watch the video assumed that any video that talks about Holocaust Denial is supporting it, and reflexively flagged it. After over a week of the video being deleted, I’m changing tactics in how I engage in the internet content economy. I’m still making videos that will be available for free on YouTube, but I’m gonna be pushing my funding mechanisms more. Patreon, Paypal, Amazon Affiliates, as well as some new comers such as, Merchandise. Unfortunately, that’s all I can really do. However, if you didn’t get to see the video, it’s available here on archive.org.
And do you remember that third version I uploaded with the fixed audio? That version is still up on the channel, and unlisted. I have replaced the second version that had been embedded with the original article with that one, so you can still watch the video here on CasualHistorian.com.
UPDATE: As of March 2nd, 2019, YouTube has lifted the restriction on the YouTube channel hosting live streams, however the Community Guidelines Strike is still in place, and the video is still deleted.
UPDATE: As of May 20th, 2019, the Community Guideline Strike has been removed. The video will be re-uploaded to YouTube with an opening disclaimer about the intent of the video, as well as an addendum to the end in which the situation around the video being deleted will be explained.
UPDATE: As of June 10th a new version of the video, with a disclaimer at the beginning clarifying that it is not in support of Holocaust Denial, and that the video was appropriate for YouTube in accordance with their Community Guidelines on Hate Speech, has been uploaded. The video was demonetized before publication, and was age restricted shortly after.