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YouTube ad issue being used to demonetise small news sites

Google seems to be taking advantage of the kerfuffle over YouTube ads appearing on videos that are deemed unsuitable to quietly demonetise news sites that are not mainstream.

As iTWire reported today, YouTube has issued a notice that ads will not be served on video channels that have less than 10,000 views. But then many smaller news sites garner many more views than this.

So other measures are being taken as well.

Last week, a notice was sent to channel owners, saying: "If you’re seeing fluctuations in your revenue over the next few weeks, it may be because we’re fine tuning our ads systems to address these (meaning the ad issues) concerns."

Expect more measures from Google to curb the dissemination of alternative viewpoints - and remember that the company got into this mess on its own in its headlong rush to dominate video-sharing on the Web and corral off the market.

There are two conclusions that one can draw. First, that Google, as it is doing with every one of its products, is slowly tightening the noose and becoming more and more proprietary in its attitude.

See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.

The company has always tried to project itself as being different from other software companies, but the curtains are slowly being pulled closed.

Remember, that Google co-founder Sergey Brin did not mind receiving financial help from the CIA when he was doing his initial research that helped create the page-rank algorithm, the company's recipe for success.

Cynics have always known that Google is about one thing: money. But many others have swallowed the kool-aid that flows in large volumes from the Googleplex and believe that it has better ethics than other big software companies. Nothing could be further from the truth.

As an example, take the case of Android, the mobile operating system that Google built after buying its progenitor and then quietly using code from Java to build an O-S in time, to avoid falling too far behind Apple in producing a smartphone.

But Android is far from being open source; every component that can be locked up, is. Only the Linux kernel cannot be locked because it is issued under a licence which safeguards it against the type of greed that Google exhibits.

There are alternatives waiting in the wings: Google has an operating system called Fuchsia which it is quietly developing. This year, if Oracle manages, as many expect, to get Google to fork out for the Java code it filched, then Google may well switch operating systems.

The second conclusion that one can draw is that Google isn't really as capable of coming up with elegant, code-based solutions to the ad problem that it is facing. So it has taken the crude approach of shafting as many possible offending videos as possible.

The problem that big advertisers face is very real: in today's world, where political correctness is at its peak, one only needs a couple of nasty videos to show a big-name ad for a boycott move to start among the public.

Americans are extremely quick to react these days after the election of Donald Trump, an event they feel they could have avoided if they had been energetic enough. And the American market is still the main game, even for many products that are made outside the country.

Google may project itself as the brainiest company around - it keeps a few intelligent coders on hand to maintain this image - but it is as crude as Trump in many ways. The measure to demonetise smaller sites is a case of throwing out the baby with the bathwater - but then it is all which with Google can come up.

Given that it more or less owns advertising on the Web along with Facebook, Google is well aware that it can do anything it likes and there will be no consequences. When you are the only game in town, then you can call the shots. Microsoft had the same attitude in the late 1990s.

Hence, crude, quick and dirty solutions are implemented. Why waste money on developers writing code when culling a whole class involves no expenditure at all?


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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.