• One of The Act Man’s videos was falsely accused of copyright infringement by another creator, QUANTUM TV
  • QUANTUM TV also encouraged his fans to dox The Act Man, which led to The Act Man’s mother being harassed IRL with phone calls
  • YouTube’s handling of the situation — which included demonetizing The Act Man’s channel – was unbalanced, and many of its decisions were left unexplained
  • Other creators should take measures to protect themselves from similar problems that could impact their own livelihood

YouTube often faces a number of controversies throughout the year. One of this year’s most high-profile controversies has been the controversy between YouTube, The Act Man and QUANTUM TV. This one involves copyrights, fair use laws, abuse of a platform’s system, doxing and harassment. More than just a personal conflict, this conflict has shined a light on YouTube and how flawed its system for enforcing its policies is.

What happened? 

It all started with the hit game Elden Ring. At its launch back in late February, the game was met with acclaim from both critics and its players. Dozens of positive reviews were uploaded to YouTube, but there were a few gaming YouTubers who didn’t share the same sentiment. These YouTubers uploaded their negative reviews about the game. As a response, The Act Man made a video reviewing the negative reviews. In the video, he critiqued and responded to reviewers’ problems with the game. One of the negative reviewers he featured was QUANTUM TV. The Act Man criticized QUANTUM TV’s reasonings for his opinions and denounced his offensive comments about the game’s audience.

In response to The Act Man’s video, QUANTUM TV started submitting takedown requests to YouTube to have the content removed for copyright infringement. As the back-and-forth between the two creators unfolded, the creator community took notice of the situation. A huge majority of creators threw their support behind The Act Man and uploaded their opinions onto their channels. Meanwhile, YouTube began taking down videos and issuing copyright strikes without addressing whether QUANTUM TV was abusing the copyright system.

The Act Man said QUANTUM TV also weaponized his audience, inciting them to find private information about The Act Man (known as “doxing”). Eventually, QUANTUM TV acquired The Act Man’s mother’s personal phone number and actually called her to insist that she make The Act Man take down his video. The Act Man reported this to YouTube, but they didn’t agree that QUANTUM TV had done anything to violate the community rules. 

The situation escalated from there

The Act Man, angry at the outcome, later posted satirical comments on Twitter. He announced sarcastically that he would start a series about doxing YouTube staff members — since that was apparently not prohibited in their guidelines. He was asked by YouTube to delete the Tweets, and he immediately complied. 

Shortly after, though, The Act Man’s latest video on the topic, titled “The Dark Age of YouTube,” was taken down by YouTube. The claim was that this newer video violated policies regarding nudity and sexual content. YouTube did not provide a timestamp for the alleged offense. The Act Man believes it was in reference to a cucumber joke, but according to The Act Man, he reviewed the policies and the video and couldn’t see anything to warrant such strict punishment. More of his videos were then hit with age restrictions and demonization.

Screenshot taken from The Act Man’s video “The Dark Age of YouTube.”

Eventually, his channel was fully demonetized and on the chopping block for deletion. Additionally, other YouTubers who spoke out against YouTube’s actions against The Act Man were also seeing their videos being demonetized. Though, after a few weeks, The Act Man was able to successfully reapply for monetization.

Several problems have come to light

In an aftermath video, The Act Man made an important point. He said, “Here’s the most important thing: I don’t know what lesson I was supposed to have learned from this.” This is a big problem. Why? Because there’s no way to prevent a repeat offense if you’re not sure what you’ve done wrong. He even admitted to feeling like he’s not sure if he’s allowed to say certain things now. It reeks of censorship, but even worse because it feels so arbitrary.

Also, YouTube’s copyright system is easily abused, as QUANTUM TV has proven. That’s a big problem, too. The penalties for copyright infringement are steep and swift. However, under Fair Use laws, creators can feature copyrighted materials within the guidelines. YouTube’s appeal process and timeline are not aligned with those for the original allegations, though. So, you may have a takedown and a strike within seven days, but it may be several weeks before you can be restored. That’s even if you’re innocent. Plus, there seem to be few repercussions for those who’ve made false accusations.

We can see that YouTube’s policy enforcement is inconsistent. It’s been shown repeatedly. It often seems to be fueled by the creator’s popularity and how many other voices are supporting them loudly. That makes it harder for smaller creators to have free speech on the platform. If they haven’t gained enough audience to defend themselves publicly, they will likely be chewed up and spit out by the proverbial machine. Smaller creators in these situations may never get their monetization back. And they may never have a strike on their channel revoked.

What can creators do to protect themselves? 

If you create content on YouTube and are hit with copyright infringement, whether warranted or not, you’ll be at the mercy of YouTube decision-makers. And, unfortunately, YouTube’s enforcement has time and time again shown its biases and flaws, leaving people’s livelihoods always up in the air. Copyright strikes and demonetization are detrimental to your income and growth, even if you eventually get them appealed. Ultimately, it’s best to diversify where you make your money; that’s what a lot of YouTube creators learned during 2017’s ‘Adpocalypse.’

The problem here is that YouTube expects its creators to follow the rules, but it doesn’t enforce its rules consistently. Making content on YouTube, especially for small creators, is a game of Russian roulette. You never know which one of your videos will be the shot that takes you down. What we can learn from this is that creators can’t rely on YouTube to be consistent. Because, like what happened to The Act Man, YouTube isn’t afraid to demonetize its creators for unspecified reasons.