YouTube and the Demonetization of History-Themed Content

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A Brief History

Hi, I am Dr. Zar from History and Headlines.  In addition to making YouTube videos, I teach college history, including to college credit plus students who are still technically also in high school.  I consider Schindler’s List to be a film suitable for viewing by high school and college age students learning about the history of the Holocaust.  In fact, I still remember seeing the movie in the theater when I was 14 years old and later learning more about the Holocaust in high school German and history classes.  The Cynical Historian’s video as part of #ProjectShoah is a helpful resource for students learning about this important topic in history versus its depiction in a critically-acclaimed and award-winning motion picture.  As such, his video should absolutely NOT be age-restricted on YouTube and I hope that YouTube will lift this restriction on his video.

Digging Deeper

What happened to The Cynical Historian’s video is something that various other history-themed YouTube channels have also experienced.  The problem is pervasive enough that a number of us are contributing to a playlist on YouTube about our experiences with demonetization of history-themed content.  While I make videos on YouTube both as a learning resource for my students and also for the general public’s education and entertainment, unfortunately, a few dozen of my channel’s videos are either not monetized at all or have limited monetization due to ad suitability and/or age restrictions.  Not only does the lack of full monetization of these videos result in a lack of any substantial earnings from these videos, it also appears to mean that these videos are not likely to be recommended by YouTube’s algorithm.  After all, why would YouTube recommend videos that are not earning them ad revenue?

My concern, though, is not merely about spending many hours editing videos only for them to not generate any income for me.  Rather, it is disturbing that several of the demonetized videos on my channel involve topics of genuine educational value and do not depict anything that one would reasonably consider not ad friendly.  For example, why would a video about the Tuskegee Airmen have limited monetization?  Why would a video about a test launch of a missile have limited monetization?  Despite covering topics associated with wars, these videos do not depict graphic violence.

In the case of the former, the video is intended as a commemoration of notable African American airmen that I made for inclusion in my Timeline of Black History playlist for Black History Month.  Why would YouTube want to suppress such a video?  In the case of the latter, the video about the missile launch, one of a number of videos about technology on my channel that are not fully monetized, that video’s focus is on a technological development rather than on any kind of bloody war violence.  Still, probably the most ironic demonetization on my channel is of a short video about the Bonfire of the Vanities that discusses an historic example of extreme censorship.

Today, in an age already characterized as cancel culture run amok, suppressing YouTube videos about fifteenth-century censorship, about the achievements of African American aviation heroes, and about how the Holocaust is remembered in popular culture as in the case with The Cynical Historian’s recent video can perhaps be characterized as a form of electronic book burning.

Question for students (and subscribers): Why is it problematic to age-restrict or limit monetization of educational content on YouTube?  Please let us know in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Zarzeczny, Matthew.  Banned from the Internet?!: “Controversial” Top 10 Lists.  CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2013.

The featured image in this article is a screenshot taken by Dr. Zar of some of his YouTube channel’s content that indicates examples of his videos with limited monetization.

You can also watch a video version of this article on YouTube.


About Author

Dr. Zar

Dr. Zar graduated with a B.A. in French and history, a Master’s in History, and a Ph.D. in History. He currently teaches history in Ohio.