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YouTube won't let users game its ads for BLM fundraising

No artificial boosts allowed, not even ones with good intentions.

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As Black Lives Matter protests kicked off, YouTube content creators have attempted to find different ways to donate to racial justice groups. One of these methods included encouraging viewers who can't afford to donate to simply watch their videos — over and over, with promises that revenue generated from the ads on those videos would be donated to deserving causes.

It sounded like a creative way to turn YouTube's AdSense system into a tool for good. But the Google-owned company has since issued a warning on its official blog with a straightforward title: Fundraising video removed when pledging to donate AdSense revenue. Here's what you need to know.

No artificial boosting revenue — While it is perfectly acceptable to earn ad revenue through organic traffic and donate the resulting money from that to your organization of choice, YouTube has warned against artificial boosts like soliciting repeated views and clicks.

"If your video encourages this behavior, it will be removed from YouTube," the company explains. "[Y]ou won’t be paid for the views and clicks, and advertisers will not be charged. For policy specifics, see YouTube’s Community Guidelines: Fake Engagement and AdSense Policies: Encouraging clicks or views."

The nitty-gritty — If a video's title, description box, or the video material itself encourages such behavior, it will be viewed as a violation of the website's policies. As a result, the content creator will not be paid for their content. YouTube has announced a pledge of $100 million to raise black content creator voices on its platform and also acknowledges that the policies around these videos and subsequent AdSense rules could have been clearer.

Here's what you can do for now — If content creators do want to raise funds and help racial justice groups, YouTube has encouraged creators to add a "Donate" button to display on their clips. Assuming a creator meets certain prerequisites they'll also be able to pin a donate badge to their channel. If they aren't eligible to use donate buttons, they can link out to funding calls or groups at the end of their videos.

"We realize some of you kicked off these efforts without a clear understanding of the policies," the company says, "so YouTube will be donating to racial justice initiatives to acknowledge the efforts over the past week." As frustrating as it is for some creators, and as noble as their intentions are, you can't really blame YouTube for its stance. Gaming the ad system is manipulation, no matter who benefits. Now perhaps YouTube can apply the same attention to COVID-19 misinformation videos which are also using ads to rake in cash.