YouTube Is Cracking Down on Users Blocking Ads or Using a Higher Degree of Privacy Protection

Emma Roth, the Verge:

YouTube is broadening its efforts to crack down on ad blockers. The platform has “launched a global effort” to encourage users to allow ads or try YouTube Premium, YouTube communications manager Christopher Lawton says in a statement provided to The Verge.

“Encourage users” is quite the euphemism for a mechanism which will eventually prevent you from watching videos unless you permit ads.

In the statement, Lawton explained that ad blockers violate YouTube’s terms of service. Presumably, this is the restriction which states “You are not allowed to: […] (2) circumvent, disable, fraudulently engage with, or otherwise interfere with any part of the Service” which, in a strict reading, implies even programmatically hiding the comments section — as I do — is a violation. After all, I am disabling part of the service.

Zhenyi Tan:

YouTube isn’t rolling out the anti-adblock to everyone. It seems to depend on things like your account, browser, and IP address. And if you’re not logged in or you’re in a private window, you’re safe. As a result, there are a bunch of people saying, “I use XYZ and I haven’t seen an anti-adblock popup yet,” unknowingly spreading misinformation.

But here’s the thing: YouTube isn’t just targeting adblockers. Use Privacy Badger? You’ll get flagged. Use Malwarebytes? You’ll get flagged. Set your Edge browser’s tracking protection to “strict”? Yep, you’ll get flagged. So a lot of people think their extensions are safe to use, but actually they’re not.

One tiny correction: I am not signed into YouTube and I, too, have seen the anti-adblock campaign.

YouTube is in a unique position — one I imagine is enviable for pretty much any other ad-supported product. It is the web’s video host — well, the web’s general purpose video host, I suppose — and has no equal, so it can do basically anything it wants. It has spent years ratcheting up the ad load. It is now typical that any video you watch will be preceded by two unskippable ads, with more ads often appearing every few minutes. There is no third choice: users either watch ads, or pay for Premium.

Is it any wonder YouTube announced it hit 80 million paying members in November?

Alec Watson:

Seemingly few people know (or understand completely) that YT Premium is a good deal for all parties involved – it kills ads, creators get a cut of the membership, and (in my experience anyway) it neutralizes many of the platform’s weird tendencies because serving relevant ads to the viewer is no longer a concern.

I would advocate for it much more strongly (and I say 100% truthfully that Premium views pay me more than ad-supported views do) except YT continues to lump YT music into it.

As is often the case with something Watson does, this got me to think differently about YouTube Premium. If you think of YouTube only as an increasingly crummy free product pushing people toward paying a monthly fee, it looks extortive. Indeed, that is the way YouTube markets Premium — five mentions of “ad-free” on that page, yet not a single indication of revenue sharing. You have to go pretty deep into the documentation to find out about this extremely appealing quality.