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(SBB) Storm

YouTube to be sued by German Union over Unfair Conditions for Creators



Greetings OC! Today, I'd like to abuse my managerial powers again by not suggesting an article on an editor-only discussion forum, because this story requires much more explaination than what's seen on the surface.


This time, it's about Youtube Censorship and what germans are doing at the moment in order to tackle the problem. I'll structure this post as follows: Summarize the problem at hand, introduce the main guy behind these activities, going over his demands and finally, most importantly, describing what kind of leverage he actually has against YouTube and how he wants to convince YouTube to comply with his demands.


  • YouTube over the years




It's become familiar with the fact that YouTube has become an unsafe place for many content creators. A lot of channels are being deleted, individual videos are being demonetized or deleted. No one never really knows what will happen next. The community guidelines and also the algorithms that are enforcing these rules and guidelines are always changing, with content creators unable to receive any transparency, they won't know why their videos are being deleted or what they did wrong.


On top of that, especially with the upcoming presidential election next year in the United States, major social media outlets have declaired that they actively want to fight against Donald Trump and prevent his reelection by using the power that they have. The problem started when the legacy media have noticed that they are no longer the number one - some individual YouTubers even have more views than they have, which became a problem for them. This is when they started accusing content creators and by association social media platforms to be responsible for the spreading of "odious opinion" or "harmful content", when they themselves report about the most horrific incidents and also spread a fair amount of lies and misinformation. And they still have advertisers and no one cares ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


Then, social media corporations tried their best to oppress "harmful opinions", so that they don't give ammunation to the legacy media and their political allies. Because of course, big government politicians and large corporations love a media that's centralized, with the old gatekeepers in power, because then you just have to bribe a handful of people. You cannot really manipulate and bribe this swarm of independent content creators and voices online. Many things have been discussed with what one could do:


  1. Play the angle of liability. One can force these social media corporations to choose whether or not they want to be an open, free platform, like a telephone provider. Or they want to be publishers, where they have editorial boards and editors that choose what content is being published and what is being rejected. The idea behind that is quite simple: If someone makes a threat, i.e. "I will punch you in the face" via a telephone, that is illegal. You're not allowed to make threats to any person. But nobody would actually sue the telephone company because the threat was made via a phone, as the telephone company doesn't filter the content, they don't control the content because they are a platform.

    On the other hand, if a newspaper has a guest columnist and this person in his column makes a threat to a person and the newspaper decides to publish it anyway, they can actually be liable. Because they are publishers and they have an editorial function. So at the moment, social media corporations enjoy the benefits of both ways. On the one hand, they want to delete certain content and promote certain content, but since they are just a platform, they aren't responsible for anything.
  2. Declare access to social media and also content creation as a public utility. Yup, just like electricity or water, you can't really deny anybody access to that whose politics or opinions you don't like. A mayor simply can't cut power or water supply to the home of their opposition.
  3. Legacy media have called for the nationalization of social media platforms.




  • Introducing the guy who championed this idea


He is called Jörg Sprave and his channel is The Slingshot Channel. I've been subscribed to him for a very long time, after he made an apperance on national TV. He's a great entertainer, a superb craftsman and the most nicest guy on YouTube. He started building slingshots with rubber bands, upgrading to crossbows that shot toothpicks and giant cannons that throw bowling balls. As you can read, he comes from a totally different corner on YouTube, he has nothing to do with politics or ideology. He's just a guy who likes to tinker in his workshop with devices that propel projectiles in certain creative ways. But, as you can imagine, he's also in trouble because some of the things he builds could be seen as weapons and thus was negatively affected by some new policies of YouTube. And as he's a fellow german, he also tackles this issue in a german way.


Now, we see this whole issue in the framework of labor law and working conditions and who is responsible for this kind of stuff? It is the employer and the labor unions. So what Mr. Sprave did is he founded a YouTubers Union. He set up a list of demands and now, he teamed up with the largest labor union on the planet with the german metal worker's union IG Metall.






IG Metall is a very tradional, very old and powerful union. Together, they have formed the initiative FairTube and have set an ultimatum to YouTube Germany in Hamburg. They said that YouTube Germany has four weeks to respond to their demands. What demands? Here are the five demands that they have:


  1. They want full transparency. Rules, regulations and guidelines are to be made clear, specifically to every content creator. No more nebulus, vague terms of service.
  2. Justify demonetization and the removal of channels and videos.
  3. They want to talk to real human beings and not just being informed of something you can't change anyway by some automated message that might not make any sense or have nothing to do with the content of the video to begin with.
  4. Establish an external, neutral arbiter in case of a conflict or a difference in opinion on the nature of content that is uploaded.
  5. The fifth demand is possibly the most important demand. The content creators, the YouTube partners demand a seat on the table. They demand participation in the operation of YouTube. Some people in other countries might be shocked to hear about that, but this is actually the norm in Germany. A company with a certain size is required to have union representatives or labor representatives on their board. In certain cases, they need to be informed and in certain other cases, they need to agree to certain measures or policies within the corporation.




  • The Decisive Leverage


But hold on, a YouTube partner is not an employee, so how does this make any sense? This question brings us to the leverage that they have or how they actually want to convince YouTube to comply here. The most important take here is that there is a case to be made here, that YouTube partners might infact be pretend or fake self-employed people. That means YouTube partners are not just self-employed businessmen who just choose to work with YouTube, but there is in fact some sort of an employer-employee relationship at hand here.


The classic example here is that a branch manager of a store, who previously was an employee of the corporation is turned into an independant business partner by the corporation. Because he might be afraid to lose his job altogether, he agrees to this arrangement. The company now saves all the vacation days, all the social security payments and have to pay much less for the same labor basically. This independant partner has no entrepreneurial freedom whatsoever, because he still just sells the same merchandise coming from the headquarters at set prices, is now much worse off than he previously was as an employee. The key phrase here is no entrepreneurial freedom.


Now the case of the YouTube partners is not that clear, to which the labor courts will have to decide about this case. But at the IG Metall office in Hamburg, a very distinguished labor law expert has already looked into this and they think, that at a german court of law, they might actually have a case.


Now the second big point is called the GDPR, General Data Protection Regulation. The idea behind this, is that any company, that collects data about you, must tell you what data they have collected on you and they must delete it if you want that. So if YouTube is actually putting a certain content provider into a certain category, i.e. desirable or undesirable content or whatever, then you must have the right to demand that they tell you what kind of data they based it on and what category you're in actually, because that's personal information about you. Punishments for not complying with this law are very severe actually. In the case of false self-employment, YouTube would have to pay social insurance payment up to five years back for YouTube partners and in the case of GDPR, they are looking at a fine of up to 20 million euros, or up to 4% of the annual worldwide turnover of the preceeding financial year.



  • The Clash between Capitalism & the Social Market Economy


The interesting note here in all of this is, since Google, Facebook and others are american companies, they are active worldwide. In them, there're american content creators, but there are also german content creators and our laws (or traditions) are very very very very very different when it comes to free speech for example, or to labor laws and working conditions. So especially this demand that YouTube partners should have a seat at the table at the company headquarters is, again, a very german thing. We'll just have to see how this plays out and how much german regulators or workers or unions can actually demand an american company to change when they're operating in Germany. YouTube Germany is in Hamburg and a Ford factory in Germany would also be run very differently from a Ford factory in the United States just because labor laws are very different here, to which they have to comply with.


I'm not sure if a YouTuber's union is the way to go or this is just a german thing and doesn't really work for the rest of the world, I have to say that I'm really sympathetic to the cause of Mr. Sprave and wish him best of luck.


As a final word, if you think these german unions are a bunch of amateurs that just play around, they you'll be very mistaken. If these unions want to, they could actually stop production of BMW and Daimler within a week. They're extremely powerful and extremely experienced when dealing with these things. And they're not only representing metal workers, who're working in traditional factory jobs, they are also representing crowd workers, which YouTube partners or content creators actually are I guess. So while people might've disregarded this newly founded YouTubers Union, they can't really laugh about the IG Metall and the fact that the YouTubers Union has now teamed up with them is actually a very big deal.


I hope you've seen the different approach that germans have dealing with these issues. We have a very strong connection to labor unions and we see employees or workers as partners - you don't hire-and-fire them. Of course, many things are changing: The classical german style of capitalism is being replaced more and more by an anglo-saxon type of capitalism. But traditionally at least, the employer, the "boss", has a life-long relationship with the worker that is based on responsibility and trust. And this is why the workers, even though they're in the hierarchy below, also have something to say and have real influence on the decisions affecting the company. That is the german way.









Other videos discussing this:










Tucker933 and Sunstriker7 like this

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I've been seeing this a lot over the past 3-5 years... Most of the independent channels I follow get their own ad deals (hard for the small guys), and/or set up a Patreon for direct support from their audiences. YouTube used to be a really creative place, and now most can hardly afford to commit time to it.


It's a whole 'nother thing to see channels and videos getting deleted altogether though.. That's a pretty fucked environment that no one will want to be a part of.


I expect we'll get some YouTube replacement from someone else eventually when things really begin to snap. I'm surprised we haven't seen that yet actually.

(SBB) Storm likes this

Oddly, this is familiar to you... as if from an old dream.          

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Isn't it obvious that YouTube can be a source of supplementary income and you should never rely on it as if there were any job security? YouTube tells you the terms and conditions of making money with them. If they broke any contracts or laws, they would be in court. Are they? You should know the risks of putting all your eggs into that one basket.

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They've greatly imbalanced how mutually beneficial the platform is over recent years, and it's hurting them. Eventually it'll be too late for them to fix.

Oddly, this is familiar to you... as if from an old dream.          

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