Two years ago, Australian YouTuber Fynnpire quit his day job to make videos full-time. The Brisbane-based creator has more than half a million subscribers on his gaming channel, and he derives income from advertising revenue.
That’s why he was so annoyed when he saw that YouTube had restricted advertising on one of his videos.
The frustration soon turned to confusion when Fynnpire saw that the video had been been flagged for “strong profanity used in a hateful or derogatory way” after a manual check by a human moderator. Fynnpire does swear in his videos, but not in a hateful way.
The flagged video, posted on Dec. 7, was a stream of a zombie virtual reality game.
Fynnpire began his commentary by welcoming his fans, as per usual speaking quickly and with his nasal Australian accent.
“My name is Fynnpire, we’re back, we’re playing Undead Development. We’re continuing on with this map today,” he can be heard saying in the video.
But when he checked YouTube’s captions on the video — the company uses machine learning to automatically transcribe videos — he realised what was wrong.
His “we’re back” in the intro to the video had been incorrectly transcribed as “wetback”, a racial slur directed at Mexicans living in the US.
It wasn’t the first time YouTube had done this.
Fynnpire’s Nov. 10 video had been flagged for similar reasons — “car” had been transcribed as “cunt”.
Fynnpire’s theory for why YouTube keeps putting swear words and slurs into his transcriptions? His Australian accent.
“I think YouTube’s auto caption system is probably having a hard time understanding my accent,” Fynnpire, who decline to provide his real name, told BuzzFeed News.
When he tweeted about this, one of Australia’s most popular YouTubers, Lazarbeam, said he’d had similar problems.
Fynnpire also noticed that the number of views dropped dramatically when the video was flagged.
Fynnpire didn’t know how to change YouTube’s decision to demonetise the videos. There was no clear way to dispute the ruling, given that it had already been manually reviewed.
He tweeted at YouTube and TeamYouTube Twitter accounts to no avail. He edited the transcript to remove the curse words in an attempt to remonetise the video.
Then finally, a breakthrough. Fynnpire is part of a multi-channel network — a business that manages YouTube creators. He said both videos were remonetised after his manager from the network spoke to a contact at Youtube.
“I don’t know what I could have done without a MCN, but thankfully I have one. I don’t know any avenues creators can take to fix these issues” Fynnpire said.
Fynnpire doesn’t believe YouTube is intentionally demonetising his videos based on his accent, but he said that his experiences are another example of where YouTube’s policies aren’t flexible enough for creators.
“I think they just need to open up some means of communication with YouTubers, or a system that allows us to specify where YouTube might had made a mistake with monetisation,” Fynnpire said.
BuzzFeed News contacted YouTube with questions about the accuracy of its automatic captions and the demonetisation appeal process, but the company did not answer by time of publication.
It hasn’t been a huge problem for Fynnpire so far, but even losing income from a couple of videos hurts.
“I have a mortgage, children of my own, and a financial responsibility to provide for them,” he said. “Knowing a video can cease to be profitable due to these mistakes does scare me, yes.”
Fynnpire said it’s possible that Youtube assumed he swore because just he’s Australian.
“Google AI is quite clever” he quipped.
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