In 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?”