MISSING: One (or several) TEDx Talks from YouTube

YouTube terms of service violationIn July of this year, I began prepping for my talk at TEDxBoulder. TEDxBoulder is the world’s largest independently organized TED-branded event in the world. No pressure, right? In spite of (or perhaps because of) that pressure, I took the stage on September 22 and was rewarded with a standing ovation — the first in my lifetime. If you want more details about my experience, you can read them here.

On October 16, the video of my talk went live on YouTube. My community ran with it — sharing, commenting, liking. And I was grateful.

On Wednesday, December 19, 2012, my video along with the videos of 3 other speakers at TEDxBoulder were removed from YouTube. The reason? We had no idea. We were just greeted by a black screen, informing us that the video had violated YouTube’s Terms of Service somehow.

Somehow. We’d all cleared the rights on our images. We dotted every i and crossed every T. But our videos were nowhere to be found. Brady Robinson, one of my fellow speakers, alerted the affected speakers and the TEDxBoulder organizers. Our organization team reached out to the main TEDx organization’s video team to get to the bottom of the issue.

Apparently, it wasn’t just the 4 of us from TEDxBoulder. We were told that roughly 60 TEDx videos had been affected and also removed from YouTube.

This morning, Brady also found this conversation in the Google forums. Apparently a massive number of videos have been affected, leaving content creators at a loss. This article was also published late in the week.

So what does this mean?

First, for all of you requesting the link to my talk — I’m sorry. I’m sorry that you can’t watch it or share it, as that’s the reason I spoke at TEDxBoulder in the first place.

Secondly, we — the content creators — are sad. And mad.

YouTube’s current stance is that the videos of our talks received artificially inflated viewcounts as a direct result of being targeted by spiders or bots designed for such purpose. This violates their TOS and thus, all of the videos — from those published by TEDx to every content creator in that Google forum — have been removed.

There are a few things I can tell you…

First, none of us created whatever spiders or bots that Google says caused our videos to violate YouTube’s Terms of Service.

Secondly, I know that I earned the over 300 likes (and 3 dislikes — yahoo!) on my video. I earned the 180+ comments on my video (as half of them are from me, thanking people for watching my talk and sharing their thoughts).

Next, it would appear that as content creators, we are held responsible for the impact caused by anyone who targets our content on YouTube with these spiders or bots. It’s important to note that as speakers at TEDx, we don’t host our own videos. They’re edited and uploaded to the TEDx channel. And it’s suspect to say that an international organization like TEDx is creating bots to boost viewcounts on their videos.

Finally, I don’t know what the solution is. There is an appeal process, but as I’m not the one in control of my video content on TEDx’s YouTube channel, TEDx has to be the one to file the appeal.

Where it all stands, this eve of Christmas Eve

On September 22, I gave the talk of my life. On December 23, three months later, no one can see it because some unknown entity included my talk — the talks of some 60 other TEDx speakers and countless other creators on YouTube — in some malicious code.

I’m hoping for a favorable outcome, but as I described to a friend this morning, here’s how I see the situation:

At present, YouTube maintains that content creators are the offending party should their videos have been targeted by some random spider/bot. As these bots/spiders create a Terms of Service violation, we will lose every VALID action, view, and response our content has earned and must then re-upload our content and start completely over. There’s no guarantee that the same or new bots/spiders won’t once again hit our content. And the bummer of it is, many content creators use Google advertising to bring traffic to their YouTube content. So Google got to profit and still play a “Terms of Service Violation” card on those content creators.

This is like saying that a reporter at the New York Times would be held liable for defamation if the NYT’s site was hacked and one of their articles were maliciously modified. Which is just horsehit, plain and simple.

What I’d like to see happen

The logical response would be for YouTube to back out the views from questionable sources from all of the videos in question and reinstate the content. This would preserve the likes and comments, along with the integrity of YouTube and Google’s advertising services as valid marketing methods.

But I don’t know. And…yeah.

So I’m sorry. To the translators who volunteered their time to transcribe all of the TEDx talks. To the other content creators facing the same issue and feeling as if they have no recourse. And I’m especially sorry for YouTube — as there are exceptions to every rule. And while I’m not Psy and didn’t create a video that teaches people to dance like they’re riding a horse…

I know I created a talk that evoked a very real emotional response in many people — and it is and remains the talk of a lifetime for me. And I thank all of you who shared it, still WANT to share it, left comments, liked it, and are asking for it. Maybe Santa will give me my TEDx talk back for Christmas this year — along with thousands of other content creators who are asking, “Why me?”


32 replies
  1. Carol Roth
    Carol Roth says:

    So sorry to hear about this and this is an often missed issue with social media. My sister’s band was an early entrant on MySpace (54,000+ fans) when a rival band that was jealous of their success reported them for spam (which wasn’t true, just a malicious back-stabbing) and they lost their account and all of their followers. It was a devastating blow for them and scared them off from social media.

    I hope that TED will use it’s resources and heft to get those restored with comments, etc.

    • Erika Napoletano
      Erika Napoletano says:

      I do hope so as well. Thanks, Carol. I see these supposed bots/spiders as malicious, too, and there’s nothing we (or your sister) could do. It’s high time that YouTube remembered that content creators, not advertisers, are the reason they get to be a successful public company.

  2. MightyCasey
    MightyCasey says:

    I’m sure that it comes as no comfort that you’re not alone, as in both Sony and UMG are slam-dunked as well. Total baby/bath-water situation, given that an attempt to kill off black-hat view mongering has actually pulled down an epic amount of stuff people actually WANT TO SEE. TEDx orgs might want to shift to Vimeo, at least for a while. Fuck YT.

    • Erika Napoletano
      Erika Napoletano says:

      Unfortunately, the “want to see” angle isn’t an issue. They’re lumping everything together. And with the number of bots that attempt to hack my blog every month, I can assure you that bots and spiders can come from anywhere and have nothing to do with want to see/don’t like you. It’s just malicious stuff and we’re all suffering the consequences.

  3. Adamk0310
    Adamk0310 says:

    This is the danger of the Cloud. They’re always advertising how secure your data is and how much uptime they offer, but that’s not the threat. Clearly, the threat is that the giant, faceless, heartless company that hosts it will decide that you’ve violated some obscure point of their ToS, and permanently ban you and/or your content without explanation, appeal, or recourse. Amazon has done it, Microsoft has done it, Blizzard has done it, and now Google has done it. And as long as these stories of blameless content creators being screwed by giant companies remain the public face of the Cloud, it will never take off they way they want it to.

    Does TED have the resources to host these videos themselves?

    • Erika Napoletano
      Erika Napoletano says:

      TED and TEDx have massive presences on YouTube. As all TEDx organizers give the videos from their events to TEDx, who knows what capabilities TED itself has. The larger point being — this could happen to anyone. At any time. And with seemingly no recourse.

    • lomifeh
      lomifeh says:

      This has nothing to do with the cloud itself in the manner you imply. Youtube is not really a cloud service. It is a video hosting service like any other albeit much larger and with more clout.

      If anything this shows more how Google in their effort to keep searches relevant and clean may go overboard.. I am curious as to their algorithm they use to track this. Google has shown to be a little quick on the trigger in the past.

  4. D.T. Pennington
    D.T. Pennington says:

    While this sucks, it isn’t entirely unheard of. Google has been on a tear of shutting down a lot of Youtubers and their affiliated Adsense accounts for “fraudulent” behavior. Sure, some are running bots or stolen content, and Google is fierce about protecting the integrity of the belly-fat ads that they run.

    There are also those who create awesome content and who develop a fan base. In some cases, accounts get suspended (with no hope of reinstatement) because a fan is trying to “help” the publisher by clicking on ads, setting up auto plays, etc. It’s one of those lovely “we want you to use our product, but don’t actually USE our product.”

    Again, this sucks. Would TedX Boulder jump over to something like Vimeo or a self-hosted solution?

    • Erika Napoletano
      Erika Napoletano says:

      To clarify, TEDxBoulder gives all the videos from our event to the national TEDx video team, who then uploads our talks to THEIR channel. We’re looking for ways to get our videos back out there, but have to be respectful of the TEDx license and terms of that license.

  5. DebbyBruck
    DebbyBruck says:

    Dear Erika – Did you download and save a copy of your work? Do you have the PowerPoint slides if you presented with some? Do you still have the transcript?

  6. Jess Graefe
    Jess Graefe says:

    I would just like to say that I watched your TED talk and I am so glad that I did. I also shared it on both Google and Facebook because I really enjoyed it so much. I am so sorry that this is happening to you and the other speakers. I think that TED talks are some of the most illuminating and educational videos out there and I have my kids watch them as well. I have no answer or solution to give you, only encouragement in that what you do makes a difference. Thanks.

  7. Clare J Fitzgerald
    Clare J Fitzgerald says:

    Hi Erika,

    I’m a new reader of your blog and didn’t know that you did a TEDX talk so it looks like I may never get to see it though …………… mmmmmmm grrrr 🙁

    ….and BTW I would definitely have tuned in because I truly appreciate your posts – I love the quirkiness of your point of view, your honesty and openness.

    My heart goes out to you at this injustice.

    I can only imagine what it must be like to prepare for and give a TEDX talk – terrifying, exhilarating and exciting all entwined.

    Lets hope that somewhere in the midst of all the absurdness of this situation, that someone in Youtube sees reason (particularly given the incredible standing that TED has in the online community and the world in general) and restores all 60+ videos and apologises.

    I’ll put this wish on my christmas list for Santa and tuck it under my pillow on Christmas Eve for you. xx

  8. pmgaveda
    pmgaveda says:

    Unbelievable! I have watched your talk more than once, and I have shared it with both friends and business clients (those who I hope will be joining us in January when you speak at my companies conference!). Please re-post the talk, as frustrating as it is to have to begin again from ground zero, it is worth it! For those who haven’t had the opportunity to see/hear this talk, wait patiently. Just think, for those who are new to your blog since the original posting of this video, this is simply giving you a forum to talk about it again and reintroduce it to them! Trust me, those of us who have seen it will be frustrated enough by this to help share it again…And again, and again! Is there somewhere else you can post it? YouTube just got unpopular with me, and NOT in the good way!

  9. lomifeh
    lomifeh says:

    This is one of the reasons that the videos produced where I work are self hosted using a CDN service. They won’t shut you down like this because all they care about is being paid for the service.

    Also the article makes an interesting note regarding Universal – they mostly stopped using Youtube. Interesting that they would be shutdown like that.

  10. Nikki Groom
    Nikki Groom says:

    I’m curious — what is TEDx’s official line?

    Shitty, shitty. Sending you a big hug in a huge mug of comfort cocoa (with a splash of a lil somethin’ somethin’ extra, should you want it.)


  11. Erika Napoletano
    Erika Napoletano says:

    As clarification for some folks:

    1) We HAVE the file of the talk. The talk itself is not lost. The issue at-hand is losing all of my 32,000 views, 300 likes, and 180 comments and having to start over from ground zero. Again. Which is a marketer’s (and TEDx speaker’s) worst nightmare.
    2) We CAN re-upload the talk to TEDx’s YouTube channel. This doesn’t “fix” anything, though and my video could be once again hit with a bot and taken down. Again.
    3) TEDx is (and respectfully so) on vacation until 1/2/2013. We won’t see any resolution until then.
    4) The issue at-hand here is that this could happen to ANYONE’S video and puts content creators in the position of bearing all of the risk and having every legitimate reward taken away should someone have it out for them. And it doesn’t even have to be someone having it out for them. It can be a bot/spider that randomly pings videos uploaded on a certain date/time or whatnot…and we’re still screwed.

  12. Sheena Miranda
    Sheena Miranda says:

    Urgh. So sorry that this happened to you guys. It’s such a great video. I was just looking for the talk so that I could share it on Tumblr along with a post about your book being featured on a 2012 reading list for women entrepreneurs. I hope it works out somehow.


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