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News Story
Updated: 07/15/2017 01:19:01AM

Lawsuit challenges YouTube over lost ads in zombie videos

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By ETHAN BARON

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Google and YouTube can’t tell the difference between promoting terrorism and rekilling the undead, a new lawsuit claims.

Google and its video-streaming service are accused in the lawsuit of choking off the revenue stream from Zombiegoboom, a YouTube channel focused on using guns, saws, axes and other weapons to slaughter attacking zombies.

Many of the videos, including “Homemade Zombie Killing Potato Cannon” and “Can a 10 Year Old Kill a Zombie?” have hundreds of thousands to millions of views.

The legal action arose in a controversy over extremist content on YouTube. Google has taken a multimillion-dollar hit because YouTube advertisers, including major companies such as AT&T, Verizon and Johnson & Johnson pulled their ads after a newspaper report revealed that ads were being paired with videos promoting terrorism and anti-Semitism.

But in an effort to comfort and win back advertisers, Google set up an ineffective screening algorithm and a secretive video-rating system that led to Zombiegoboom losing its ads, the lawsuit filed July 13 claims.

The two Arkansas men who own Zombiegoboom say in the lawsuit that they were making $10,000 to $15,000 a month from the channel, before the changes slashed their revenue by 90 percent to 95 percent.

“This was despite the fact that viewership of creative content posted by Zombiegoboom remained steady,” said the lawsuit, which seeks class-action status.

The plaintiffs, James Sweet and Chuck Mere, claim that their channel was getting 6 million to 10 million views per month, “roughly equivalent to the number of views that a popular television show on cable would receive.”

After the changes, Sweet and Mere “were not even being paid enough to cover the costs of making their content, due to their videos being demonetized,” they claim.

YouTube had provided no warning of impending changes or new terms that channels had to abide by, the lawsuit alleges.

“The only such communication received by Plaintiffs focused on YouTube’s desire to demonetize hate speech,” the lawsuit says.

YouTube would not comment on the lawsuit.

The men lost tens of thousands of dollars in revenue as a result of the changes and YouTube ignored requests by the men for a review of their situation, the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit seeks certification as a class-action covering any U.S. YouTube content providers who have uploaded material since 2006, and whose videos were available for viewing on YouTube between March 1 - when the changes purportedly began - and the present.

Sweet and Mere accuse Google and YouTube of unfair, fraudulent and anti-competitive business practices. They are seeking unspecified damages.

YouTube in June issued a blog post concerning the changes to ad eligibility for videos. Not eligible is material with “hateful content,” “inappropriate use of family entertainment characters” and “demeaning content.”


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