It all happened in the course of one night, and it happened quite suddenly.
Last Thursday night, I noticed that YouTube demonetized my interview with a former KKK Grand Dragon who is now an associate pastor in an African-American church, claiming it was “Not suitable for all advertisers.” Why wouldn’t it be? It was a great, positive, redemptive story, one the whole world should hear. Why flag it?
The demonetizing of this video was the first thing that got my attention, but I thought to myself, “It’s probably because it has KKK in the title.”
For months now, we had noticed that almost any video we had with “Islam” in the title would get demonetized. But when we would request a review from YouTube, some of the videos would get reinstated.
Still, we had seen a drop of more than 65 percent in our AskDrBrown YouTube income, despite producing more, not less videos. What was causing this to happen?
We are a nonprofit ministry, and every dime that comes in goes back into ministry work. Why the precipitous decline?
Well, no sooner did I see that the Grand Dragon video had been flagged than I spotted a note on our channel from YouTube. It explained that, if we had seen a drop in video income, it could be that our videos had been marked as not suitable for all advertisers.
That’s when the shocking reality began to unfold.
It wasn’t just a few videos here and there that were flagged. It was dozens of them. No, wait, it was pages of them. No wait, pages and pages of them.
Literally, in front of my eyes, I watched the pages grow – from 2 pages, to 5, to 7, to 10, to 15, to 20, to, 32 pages, each with 30 videos – so, more than 900 videos.
It wasn’t individual videos being flagged. It was our account that was flagged.
Suddenly, the vast majority of our videos had been demonetized since the content was ostensibly too controversial.
We’re talking about videos like:
“Part 1: Sarah from Brooklyn,” where an 88-year-old Orthodox Jewish woman shares her delight in discovering my radio show (sounds pretty ominous, no?).
“Some Redemptive Thoughts on Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman,” discussing how we could overcome racial divisions (yes, this is surely unsuitable for advertisers).
“Caller Disagrees With Dr. Brown About The Nature of Atonement” (obviously, a call like this will provoke hatred and violence).
“Does God Pray?” (notice, nothing here about Islam, LGBT issues, or politics; nothing controversial at all other than a discussion of an interesting Jewish tradition).
“Lee Strobel Shares His Testimony” (yes, the same Lee Strobel whose testimony was enshrined in the “Case for Christ” movie; how dangerous!).
Debates I had with rabbis were flagged; powerful stories, like a Muslim woman being healed by Jesus, were flagged; videos where I answered questions like, “Should Christians Homeschool Their Children?” or “Did Jesus Claim to Be God?” were flagged, along with videos of spiritual encouragement (like the one encouraging believers to look to the Lord in the midst of chaos).
Teaching videos were flagged (like the one explaining that the preface to the King James Version of the Bible refutes King James Onlyism), along with motivational videos (like the one where I talked about how I lost 95 lbs.). All these were flagged, along with the many videos that focused on LGBT issues or radical Islam or politics. Seriously?
For months, we’ve been hearing about the YouTube crackdown on conservative voices, especially those who have the temerity to confront certain “controversial” issues. And we’ve known that, with the ADL joining forces with YouTube, blatant censorship could be next.
We’ve watched as Prager U videos were temporarily removed. We’ve heard others cry foul as their videos were demonetized, most recently major Internet players like Paul Joseph Watson and Diamond and Silk. (Whether or not you agree with these voices, they deserve the same rights and privileges others have on YouTube.)
Still, it was quite a shock to see that the vast majority of our videos were demonetized in a single night. (When I posted this video on Facebook, I thought all our videos had been flagged; actually, just the vast majority were. The overall impact is virtually the same.)
Our YouTube channel is still young and growing – but we do have more than 900 videos posted, over 33,000 subscribers, and more than 5 million views so far. And we absolutely plan to use the medium of YouTube to reach as many people as possible.
But the site’s recent actions, which are as indiscriminate as they are discriminatory, must be challenged, and along with others, we plan to do that very thing. We are also working on alternate means to produce, fund and distribute our videos, so stay tuned for more information in the coming days.
For the moment, we’re rejoicing in the opposition we have received, taking it as a good sign overall. And we’re confident that if this door closes, God will open a better one.
Our immediate message to YouTube is simple: We will not be silenced.