Let’s be clear: The shooter who terrorized the San Bruno, Calif., headquarters of YouTube yesterday, identified as Nasim Najafi Aghdam, was clearly disturbed and her twisted reasons for her acts deserve no consideration. After injuring several employees at the online video giant, Aghdam died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
But it’s important to understand the circumstances that set this troubled woman in motion, even if she could have been just as easily upset by any other thing. That said, numerous reports and posts by her indicate that Aghdam was disgruntled about recent policy changes made by YouTube. Her father said he told police she was angry at the company for being “discriminated and filtered,” as she noted in a video she posted.
What Aghdam was referencing were new rules on the platform. More specifically, earlier this year, YouTube rolled out previously announced changes to its monetization policy that sent shock waves through its massive community of creators. Under new rules, the requirements for its partners in the YouTube Partner Program were raised after criticism mounted about its lack of policing of fringe content on the platform,
Among the changes: A higher bar for monetization, manual reviews of content in its preferred program and better control of where ads appear. This change made it harder for tens of thousands of small video makers — apparently Aghdam was one of them and she posted her complaints online — to make money using YouTube’s ad revenue-sharing program. Many called it “demonetization.”
The YouTube move was a response to growing criticism over questionable and offensive content that appeared on its site. As Peter Kafka noted in January:
The changes won’t prevent people from uploading offensive content to YouTube, which hoovers up hundreds of hours of new video per minute. But they are meant to make it hard for the people who upload that stuff to make money from it. And they are an important symbolic change for YouTube, which was founded on the idea that anyone can use the platform, and has spent years trying to entice video makers to find audiences and create careers on the site.
YouTube’s new rules require anyone who wants to generate ad dollars on the platform to first generate 4,000 hours of “watchtime” over a 12-month period, and to attract at least 1,000 subscribers. That replaces a lower hurdle of 10,000 lifetime views, which the site instituted last spring, after a first wave of negative stories about rogue content.
That’s one of the things we talked to YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki about at the Code Media conference recently, as well as issues with all kinds of problematic content. It’s worth a listen, because it illustrates the challenge YouTube faces in policing a platform it has opened up to anyone.
That can lead to trouble, as Techmeme’s Gabe Rivera noted in a tweet:
This is sad and terrifying and a new kind of wakeup call for platforms: when you have millions of users, some of them will be angry at you, unhinged, and armed. https://t.co/BNPnFyTt83— Gabe Rivera (@gaberivera) April 4, 2018
Here’s the video of Wojcicki, who discusses the management of content creators on the YouTube platform throughout the interview:
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.