I want to do a little public service announcement about YouTube. Please don’t ever ever EVER hit the “Report” button on a video unless you really have a monumental problem with the video.
Now let’s back up and I’ll tell you why.
On Tuesday I checked my email and found a notice from YouTube telling me that one of my videos had been taken down and that it violated the community guidelines. Oddly the video that was taken down was an interview Steve and I did with a vendor at the CSUN Persons With Disabilities Expo last March.
Now let’s be clear. Steve and I are super careful not to ever use copyrighted music in our videos, we never record someone who doesn’t know they’re being recorded, we ask their permission beforehand, and we use no profanity. I couldn’t think for the life of me what could be wrong with this interview.
I went to YouTube on my Mac to check this out. I was faced with a giant red notice with only one button – a button to acknowledge that I had read it. They weren’t asking me to agree, just to acknowledge. I won’t read every line of the notice, but I’ll read you the important bits.
They said that my video was flagged for review and that upon review it was determined that it violates their community guidelines, and that they had assigned a Community Guidelines strike. They went on to explain the impact of strikes, and I’ll read that verbatim.
This is the first strike applied to your account. We understand that users seldom intend to violate our policies. That’s why strikes don’t last forever – this strike will expire in three months. However, it’s important to remember that additional strikes could prevent you from posting content to YouTube or even lead to your account being terminated.
Yikes! They went on to explain:
If you believe this was a mistake, we’d like to hear from you. Please follow both of these steps as simply deleting the video won’t resolve the strike on your account.
I had no choice, so I hit acknowledge and went into the video manager. From there I couldn’t see what was wrong with the video.
I was concerned but then checked my email again (because that’s what I do when I can’t figure out something). I saw an email from the very vendor who had been showcased in my video interview on YouTube. I have decided not to call out the vendor because the situation has been resolved. I’d like to read the email to you though.
Please remove the following video from YouTube and Podfeet. The reason is it is inaccurate. I would be happy to replace it with another video with accurate information. This is a federal program and needs to have accurate information.
Now my concern turned to anger. The only inaccurate information that could possibly be in this video would be from the employee of HIS company. If this chowderhead had my email address, why didn’t he just send me a note in the first place asking for another interview? Not sure I would have done it but he could have asked first.
I went back to the video manager and after a bit of fumbling around in YouTube’s always mysterious menu system, I found an area where I could explain why I thought they were in error in taking down my video. While I really wanted to paste in the vendor’s email to explain my position, YouTube had only provided a very short one line field. Because I’ve honed my chops at shortening my content using the wonderful tool called Twitter, I was able to get my explanation into their short field, including the information that I was in contact with the person requesting the material be taken down.
I figured it would take a while for this to get resolved over at YouTube so I decided to write back in the mean time to Mr. Chowderhead to find out what on earth he thought was inaccurate about my interview. Here’s what I wrote to him:
Can you please elaborate on how it was inaccurate? We did the interview in good faith with an employee of YOUR company. Because of your action our account now has a strike against us as though we have posted pirated content! You are hurting MY business.
If you have good reasons for this I would HIGHLY prefer to take the video off of YouTube myself, after you remove the takedown request. It would have been professional of you to contact me first before trying to hurt my business because of words spoken by your employee.
Mr. Dorkpants responded with an answer basically as vague as his first email. In this one he reiterated that he asked that it be removed immediately because it was inaccurate. He said he’d remove the takedown request if I would tell him how to do that. Well how the heck do I know how to do that? I didn’t initiate it! Go back to where you flagged it and look for a way to retract it! He helpfully offered to discuss it via phone. Well I hate using the phone except for talking to people I really like so that wasn’t going to happen.
At this point I figured that they will or won’t accept my explanation, and I can stand having one strike on my record for three months.
But then things got worse. I explained last week that my MacBook Pro had to go in for repairs so I’d be using my 2011 MacBook Pro for the week. I was in the process of setting everything up just in case I had to use it to produce the show. I’d downloaded just about everything I could think I’d need. It was time to test out my live show setup just in case.
I went into YouTube and went to the broadcast live page and I was faced with a screen that said because of the takedown strike, I was NOT allowed to stream live! Can you imagine how many non-Girl-Scout-safe words I said right then??? Un-freaking-believable. This joker doesn’t like what his own darn employee said, so he’s taking ME off line?
Well it was time to break my rule and call Mr. Dorkface on the phone. Before I did, I tried to calm my nerves and think logically. I said to myself, “What’s your objective here, Allison?” You see, if my objective was to vent at someone, then I should start with an opening line that was aggressive and angry. However, if my objective was to get this knucklehead to fix it for me, I just might want to try another approach. It’s been a personal growth for me to actually try to think about these things ahead of time.
I got Mr. Poopoohead on the phone, explained calmly who I was and enlightened him on how his actions were impacting my business. He tried to explain how his employee had said inaccurate things (again not elaborating) and how that employee had since been fired but that he didn’t want to go into it. I asked him why, if he had my email address, he hadn’t simply contacted me to discuss this instead of taking my business offline.
I told him that I would be glad to take down any reference on YouTube and on my website to the free advertising I had done for his company, if he would first retract his takedown on the video. I was afraid to remove the video myself as I was afraid that action would remove my connection to the appeal process.
It took me a few minutes to catch on that this guy pretty much had no idea how YouTube works. He started being defensive when I suggested that he just go back to where he did it and fix it. It took him several minutes to find my email, where he’d be able to find the link to the video. He then saw that I had sent him a screenshot of the nasty notice I’d received, and proceeded to read it to me. I suggested (perhaps impatiently) that we move this along and he just go into YouTube.
And then he said, “Well if you’re going to just yell at me, I’m going to hang up.”
Dear Lord, give me strength. I took a deep breath, repeated my “what’s my objective” speech to myself yet again. I calmly, very calmly swallowed everything I wanted to say and instead apologized, and also explained that I shouldn’t be letting my emotions about having my business taken off line get in the way of us having a civil conversation to fix this.
Dorky McDorkface then proceeded to dig around on YouTube while I held down my mute button. He eventually decided to try hitting the “Like” button to see if that would trigger something.
Right around that time, I got an email from the YouTube team, which read:
Thank you for submitting your video appeal to YouTube. After further review, we’ve determined that your video doesn’t violate our Community Guidelines. Your video has been reinstated and your account is in good standing.
— The YouTube Team
Ok, maybe they didn’t say, “love”. Mr. Cheesepants then decided that it was his brilliant decision to hit the like button that had fixed it. I sincerely doubt that had anything to do with it. I’m sure the appeals process had worked (as they said in the email).
I made him stay on the line until I could confirm that the restriction on my live streaming was gone. Only then did I go back into YouTube, delete the video, and also delete the blog post from podfeet.com.
Finally around now, Mr. BooBoo apologized. I decided to end the call with what I suggested were two life lessons for him. First, I suggested that he NEVER hit the report button on a YouTube video again when he had a simple path to contact the creator. Second I pointed out that he could really step up his game in the apology department. While I was the one that gave his company free advertising, he had taken it out on me and shut down my business, and for that, he could have made this whole thing a lot more friendly if he’d have apologized a LOT earlier.