Monday, 30 March 2015

the independent vs youtube (or leave zoella alone...)

so on monday the independent ran a story with this headline -

on the front page too, if i'm not mistaken. basically, they carried out an investigation (and by investigation i mean they sat and watched several hours of youtube and got paid for it) that revealed that the adverts on top youtube videos were for sweets and  gambling and bad things, and that kids watch youtube so vloggers are therefore evil.

i'm not even exagerating all that much. they also linked to the article with this tweet -

now i get that there may be a discussion to be had around how youtube advertises and how children interact with youtube, yes, a parent could well allow an eleven-year-old to watch zoella's videos thinking they are perfectly harmless and not realising their child is seeing ads for sweets and gambling (and of course, that parent will then have no choice but to buy their child sweets and take them to the nearest casino immediately). what i'm saying is, i concede that there are issues here and they are issues that would benefit from a discussion in a public forum.

however, there are elements of the article that i find troubling.

for a start, the choice of the word 'harming' in the above tweet implies some sort of intention, like zoella posts a video knowing that kids will be harmed as a result. and yet the article itself clearly states that youtubers may not know what is advertised on their videos and that they have yet to verify this. of course they don't fucking know what's advertised before their videos! i doubt any of the producers of programmes on itv or channel 4 care that much either. but for most people reading the article and especially that tweet, the fact that it's not verified will not matter. the idea of vloggers as villains has been planted.

then there's the fact that zoella owns a £1m mansion. what relevance does this have? yes, vloggers sometimes make money from their videos, zoella has clearly made a lot of money but this is like sneering at someone because they're good at their job. the point of mentioning the mansion is to further demonise youtubers. most people reading will not be youtube fans and they will look at this and maybe watch a video and think 'what? she talks about make-up for ten minutes and they give her a mansion? what's the world coming to?' because most people are idiots and can't think for themselves. this article is appealing to those people.

i'm about to make a wild comparison here, but there's something in the way the independent writes about zoella that reminds me of the banning of the video nasties in the 1980s (i wrote an essay on this when i was at uni). with the video nasties, it seemed like people outside the intended audience for horror movies heard about a few of them, decided parents were likely allowing their kids to watch them because parents are obviously rubbish, and then started banning things. many of those things were pretty awful to begin with, but there were some genuine art pieces were included in that as well, like matt cimber's the witch who came from the sea - there's a film that should never have been banned.

it's not so extreme yet, but the reaction here is remarkably similar. my concern is that if the media at large take an attitude that youtubers are corrupting the nation's youth, how long will it be before tighter regulations are imposed? right now, anyone can say pretty much anything on youtube and that's fantastic. if the cynicism and general negativity of the independent article is indicative of a growing concern then i wonder how long youtubers will really be free to say what they want.

maybe it's nothing; maybe i'm being paranoid. i just read articles like this and see a journalist preying on the prejudices of ill-informed people. i don't think zoella's fans or anyone in the youtube community will really care. i just hope this isn't the first of many articles like this one. and while not wanting to turn into a much ridiculed internet meme, i do wish they'd leave zoella alone. they could have chosen from a million youtubers for this article, they could have written about one of the hundreds of minecraft channels which are intentionally appealing directly to kids, but instead they go for the most public profile because they're an easy target and journalists think that being financially successful means you don't give a fuck about bullies anymore.

by the way, i just watched a zoella video to test it out, i got an advert for universal studios in orlando. i've already booked my ticket. damn those adverts, how i wish i had some sort of, you know, choice or something. i'm going to go borrow money off my dad for the flight. parents pay for shit like that all the time, right?

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