Why do social media platforms ban crypto-related content?

From 2018’s crypto ban to 2019’s crypto purge, YouTube continues to delete videos from crypto-related channels. Will this drive a push to decentralization?

YouTube continues to remove crypto related content from its platform. In March the company banned channels Ivan on Tech and the Moon, in April — the account of the famous cryptographer Tony Weiss, channels Crypto Crow, BTC Sessions and a number of others. At the same time, many scam projects and live translations remain intact on video hosting. The reasons for blocking include a new platform algorithm that blindly blocks everything that seems suspicious. The new algorithm has also been launched on Twitter, which is so beloved by the crypto community. The social network started putting crypto accounts into a shadow ban. In April, it restricted the accounts of Messari head Ryan Selkis, analyst Tony Weiss, founder of The Block’s crypto media Mike Dudas and several other industry representatives. Is there censorship of crypto users by media giants, how does the crypto community react to these blocks, and which platforms do content creators go to?

Does YouTube hate cryptocurrencies?

The reason for the ban was the violation of the terms of content placement, creation of “harmful and dangerous” content and “sale of prohibited goods”. At the same time, many scam channels were not blocked.

The crypto community exploded with a wave of angry messages on Twitter and Reddit. A few days later YouTube recovered most of the banned channels, explaining its actions by an error and moderation algorithm update in early December.

However, the problem of unexpected and unreasonable blocks remained. In March of this year YouTube deleted one video from major channels Ivan on Tech and The Moon. Before that Ivan on Tech had also been repeatedly blocked. The channel’s author, Ivan Liljekvist, a Swedish programmer, teacher and popular speaker at blockchain conferences, said that he would go to other platforms, but after removing the ban he still remained on video hosting.

The YouTube algorithm

The strictest algorithms will apply to video that misinforms about the coronavirus. YouTube admits that this way videos that do not violate any rights can be accidentally deleted. Neal Mohan, YouTube’s chief product development manager, said that there are already many such cases, and the platform receives many complaints from content creators about the illegal removal of videos. Video hosting is trying to minimize such cases.

Channel owners may challenge the blocking of videos, but the platform warns that it will take more time than usual because of the reduced number of people-moderators.

The new algorithms are no longer suitable for several channels about cryptocurrencies:

  • On April 9th the Crypto Crow channel with 81 000 subscribers was blocked;
  • On April 16, YouTube blocked the channel of the famous analyst Tony Weiss, which has over 100 000 subscribers. Earlier he had already faced problems with specific clips, but videos were always recognized as complying with hosting rules. Blocking a whole channel was a surprise for Weiss;
  • On April 17, BTC Sessions channel with 33 000 subscribers was blocked for “repeated or serious violations” of the basic principles of the platform;
  • The video mentioning Coronavirus was also removed from the Spanish channel Academia Blockchain with 8600 subscribers;
  • YouTube also stopped live broadcasts of the Blockchain Education Network project dedicated to blockchain technology.

BTC Sessions and Tony Weiss channels were unbanned within 24 hours after the blocking with the specification from YouTube that the authors do not violate the rules of the service. Crypto Crow channel was restored after three days. The popular Crypto Lark Davis, also known as The Crypto Lark, told Cointelegraph that 11 videos were deleted on his channel in April, but restored within a few hours.

Google does not disclose the details of its algorithms. Therefore, it is impossible to determine what exactly they do not like in videos. Perhaps it’s not even about the blockchain. But if the algorithm believes that the subject of cryptocurrencies is related to misinformation about the coronavirus, it looks at such videos more closely.

Leah Thompson, author of Girl Gone Crypto says that there are rumors that YouTube blocks crypto-related content because of referral links. Apparently, when placing the same referral links in each video description, the platform marks the content as spam. However, there is no confirmation of this, and so far this is just an attempt to explain the choice of algorithms.

Ripple accuses YouTube of supporting scammers

Plaintiffs believe YouTube is taking no action against fraudsters who have been posting fake claims about XRP free distribution on behalf of Ripple since November last year. Apparently, scammers buy channels with a large number of subscribers, and then remove content from them by uploading their own videos. Ripple has even hired a special firm to fight fraud, because YouTube almost does not respond to complaints.

The company also accuses the platform of knowingly making a profit by selling paid advertising to scammers, despite the fact that it is possible to stop them. In total, the company has submitted 49 complaints to YouTube about such videos and channels and 305 complaints about the channels impersonating Brad Garlinghouse.

The platform has not yet responded to the charges. However, a week after filing a YouTube lawsuit, the channel of Ripple technical director David Schwartz was blocked.

Twitter bans the crypto community activists

Moreover, the head of the company, Jack Dorsey, is an ardent supporter of the crypto industry. He invests in crypto projects, speaks at Bitcoin conferences and considers BTC “the natural currency of the Internet”. He’s even going to launch a decentralized version of Twitter, where users from different platforms can communicate with each other directly.

However, Twitter is also periodically accused of being biased against crypto projects. Back in 2018, users accused Twitter of using a so-called shadow ban, in which accounts are not searchable, or posts are not visible in the user feed. Then the social network denied that deliberately makes someone’s content less accessible.

In December 2019, Twitter updated the terms of the user agreement. Now the social network reserves more rights to regulate content and ban users. From now on, it can “restrict distribution or visibility of any content on the service”, as well as “suspend or terminate accounts”. Twitter believes that this is how the company follows “a zero tolerance approach to platform manipulation and any attempts to abuse the service”. In mid-March Twitter also separately stressed that it will block users who spread false information about coronavirus.

However, the social network actually blocked accounts for fake news about COVID-19 and earlier. Thus, at the end of January of this year, the page of Zero Hedge financial news site covering the crypto industry, among other things, was permanently banned on Twitter after an article about the alleged connection of the Chinese scientist to the coronavirus outbreak. The account had 670 000 followers.

Twitter also deleted several tweets from well-known profiles of people far removed from the crypto industry for fakes about the coronavirus: David A. Clarke, former sheriff of Milwaukee County (@SheriffClarke), who called to ignore quarantine in the U.S., actress Alice Milano, who published misinformation about protection against the virus. The removal of tweets also reached the representatives of the crypto world. In March, Twitter removed the posts of the odious John McAfee, who said that COVID-19 was not dangerous for African Americans because it was a “Chinese virus”.

In late March, the founder of the research company Messari, Ryan Selkis, stated that his personal and business accounts on Twitter were banned and restricted in visibility. The reason is the spread of “fakes about coronavirus”. The company created a special page to track the number of cases, and Selkis spent several months sharing news about COVID-19 with his subscribers. After the ban, he noticed that the coverage of his posts was significantly reduced — they could only be seen by followers. Now Selkis and Messari accounts are publicly available.

Selkis is not the only representative of the crypto industry who noticed Twitter “censorship”. Mike Dudas, founder of The Block news publication on cryptocurrencies, complained that at the end of April, his tweets got less coverage than usual. Several other users pointed to a similar problem in their comments. Some even switched to LinkedIn because of this.

The social network, like most large technology platforms, regularly updates its monitoring algorithm. Perhaps, the new update is “biased” to representatives of the crypto industry. Or people just follow the market less and more — the news about the pandemic and crisis. In any case, it is obvious that Twitter does not intend to censor the crypto industry — everybody can fall under the shadow bath.

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Blockchain enthusiast developer and writer. I love video games, blockchain and the hot symbiosis of these two worlds.