Thursday, December 6, 2012

Google Likes to Cheat People... But I'm Stuck With Them For Now

Kotaku posted an article a few days ago about guy who had the had the monetization option removed from his YouTube account due to what Google called "improper clicks". He found out that an overzealous fan had caused the problem by clicking the ads too many times. Following the article are a couple hundred comments including a significant amount of other people who faced the same ban (many of them with no clue as to what actually led to the ban).

The overlords at Geek World have faced a similar problem (and by proxy I have now lost my ability to make money from this blog). In the case of Geek World it's not YouTube it's right here on Blogger. One of the most concerning parts of their story is that they were lucky enough to get a huge influx of visitors to the blog on a few separate days because a celebrity tweeted a link to one of their posts, they had some exclusive content, and some of their photo posts just happened to bring in huge numbers. Aside from the celebrity tweet the vast majority of the audience came directly from Google searches. So what does that mean? It seems that Google is penalizing them for the audience that Google sent to them!

According to my bosses the most frustrating thing is the inability to communicate with an actual human. The appeals are handled by bots, not people. The bot sends an email about how Google's "specialists" have gone through the appeal and came to some conclusion, but this does not include any sort of explanation of what the problem was, or why the "specialists" concluded they could not reinstate the account. But when you are dealing with bots they have no ability to give a valid argument. It seems like the only way to get reinstated is if you know the keywords to use and where to put them in the initial appeal!

They got banned form Adsense on Blogger right before they would have been receiving a check (and by the way it was not going to be a particularly large check - only about $50, but that's $50 we all worked hard to earn). This seems to be a pattern with the way Adsense works, the comments on the Kotaku article are rife with people dealing with the same issue - somebody is days away from earning a check and all of a sudden out of nowhere Google claims there is some sort of problem, a problem they will not actually disclose the true nature of. They can claim "invalid clicks" but if the Adsense account holder isn't doing anything to invalidate the terms they agreed to then what does the term "invalid clicks" even mean?

The worst part about "invalid clicks" is that it can be used as a weapon. If you are angry at somebody you can invalidate Adsense on their blog or YouTube channel by clicking on their adds over and over again. Apparently it doesn't take all that much to totally screw somebody over. Just as an overzealous fan can accidentally screw with your ability to make money, anybody can purposely mess with you in this way. The lack of actual humans dealing with this creates a mess.

And this is not the only way that Google's impersonal bot based customer service can screw people over. The Geek World overlords are dealing with a different problem, this time with YouTube. One of their videos was taken down because a company called Dance All Day claimed to hold the Copyright on the song used in the video. This is a huge problem because Dance All Day are NOT the valid Copyright holders for the song. The song is FULLY OWNED by a fantastic musical artist called Iviza. Iveza is a friend Geek World and gave them full permission to use his music. AnnaMay responded to the false Copyright claim and included a link to written permission from Iveza (who I will reiterate is the ACTUAL OWNER of the song) saying that Geek World has the right to use his music. The simple fact that the music is Iveza's should be all that matters but apparently Dance All Day likes to claim ownership to things that aren't theirs. In fact it seems that they have a habit of trying to use YouTube to defraud people and cheat the system to help their own videos and pages.

Check out these pages of people on YouTube that have had to deal with false Copyright claims by Dance All Day, some have tons of comments from other YouTubers also dealing with Dance All Day's false claims:

As you can see Dance All Day makes claims to loops from Garage Band, music they do not own, musical scales, videos with material that is creative commons/no rights reserved, and in some cases they even try to claim rights to videos that have no music (some of which are just the video maker talking into the camera). If that's not proof that they are just trying to mess with people I don't know what is!

So it should be an easy fix, right? Not so much. AnnaMay apparently tried to deal with this nicely. She sent a few emails directly to Dance All Day, even Iveza emailed them to let them know we are fully within our rights to use his music and that it is in fact HIS music. They got no response and no claim retraction.

So how is this Google's fault? Well because they are bot based customer service they allow places like Dance All Day to harass legitimate YouTubers and cause their videos to be taken down. When somebody files a notice that the Copyright claim is not valid the claim goes straight to the company/person making the claim. YouTube takes the stance of guilty until proven innocent (though they don't really care if you can prove innocence if they can prevent you from making money for any period of time it's better for them).

So Geek World gave Dance All Day the chance to do the right thing, they waited a few days. Finally they realized they had no choice but to file a Copyright Counter-Notification. This means if Dance All Day wants to keep their claim going they have no choice but to sue! And that would be a very bad idea for them since they don't in any way shape or form own the music in question. So let's see where this goes!

But the real question is this: Will anything be done to Dance All Day? YouTube says they do not have the right to deny somebody the ability to file claims. That is understandable, but we're talking about a company that is essentially trying to defraud YouTube and cheat people using YouTube. They seem to make tons of these false claims and it appears they have never faced any repercussions. Google is so obsessive when it comes to cheating with Adsense (their 1 strike policy with customer disservice bots seems does a great job of screwing people) but when it comes to good people dealing with cheaters they seem unwilling to do anything helpful. I understand that they do not want to deny people the right to file a claim but when somebody files this many claims (most or possibly all of which are FALSE) it seems like there should be some bot or algorithm that would cause one of those obnoxious Google form letters to go to Dance All Day (and other companies doing the same thing) warning them that they could be putting their accounts in jeopardy by misusing the Copyright claim form. It seems ridiculous that it's not a problem to consistently LIE and claim to own other peoples' materials.

For now Geek World has a Copyright Strike against them on YouTube even though they have full rights to use the music in question, they have been screwed by Adsense bots, and they are having an impossible time contacting any sort of actual live human being.

AnnaMay likes to complain about all the moronic algorithms that can make for some very uncomfortable website visits and bots that are not as smart as the companies using them would like to believe. Now I understand why! This sucks. Google is happy to cheat people out of money they rightly earned but will allow people to get cheated by liars who are trying to steal other peoples' music and videos. Not cool Google! If Geek World didn't believe in you and insist on sticking it out with Blogger and YouTube I would totally be out of here!