Google has backtracked after “mistakenly” deleting the accounts of several prominent YouTubers over incorrect child abuse fears.
Popular YouTubers Mystic7, Trainer Tips and Marksman, who have more than 3.5 million subscribers between them, were among those who had their accounts deleted after posting videos of themselves playing Pokemon GO.
They were told their videos contravened YouTube’s community guidelines because “YouTube prohibits uploading… any type of activity that sexualises minors”.
YouTuber Billiam Thies told the BBC that not only was his YouTube channel removed, but his entire Google account was deleted as well – a move that Google, who owns YouTube, now admits was a mistake.
“People on Twitter were letting me know my YouTube account was down,” he said. “But because my Google account was terminated as well I didn’t have access to my email so I couldn’t see what happened.”
It is not clear how many people had their accounts removed in error, but it appears that all of the accounts have been reinstated after people took to social media to complain.
According to YouTube, if a person believes that their video has been mistakenly removed, a different reviewer will reassess it – and in this case, the videos were re-reviewed and the accounts were reinstated.
This has led to consternation, with popular Pokemon GO YouTuber Mystic criticising the company amidst what some labelled a “total lack of communication”.
‘Sexual content involving minors’
The question which has been repeatedly asked on social media is how YouTube managed to confuse footage from a video game with something illegal.
The problem seems to centre around the acronym “CP”, which in the world of Pokemon GO refers to “combat points”, or the measure of a Pokemon’s strength in battle.
Yet outside of Pokemon the acronym can be taken to stand for “child pornography”, a term used to describe child abuse images.
Google chose not to comment on whether this was the source of the issue, however it would explain why communities outside of Pokemon were also affected.
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Billiam explained that he had been banned because of a video he had posted about former online game Club Penguin, shortened to “CP” in the video title.
“My Club Penguin video had been flagged for sexual content,” he said. “That’s a serious allegation.
“Though my account is back, I have to appeal the claim on that video.
“I have no ill will towards the platform because of it, but there could have been better communication.”
Many other users reported that the notices they received stated that the violations were for “sexual content involving minors”.
Man or machine
The point of contention for many of these YouTubers is the claim that the videos were deemed inappropriate even after they had been reviewed.
Google did not clarify whether this process is performed by a human, or a computer.
They have been criticised for this lack of clarity, with gaming YouTuber Thinknoodles, who has 4.1 million subscribers, questioning this on Twitter.