Similar to a nuclear bomb explosion, wiping out parts of the planet’s surface, metaphorically speaking, just with pressing a button, Climate State has been nuked off of the largest video platform. YouTube is the monopoly for video distribution on the internet, Alexa.com ranks YouTube.com second most trafficked website on the Internet, after Google.com. Hence, a very serious impact for someone not allowed to access or possess a YouTube account. Effectively a ban for the busiest parts of the internet, and on top the real reason remains shrouded with YouTube declining any further communication. We have been notified by YouTube.
We’d like to inform you that due to repeated or severe violations of our Community Guidelines (https://www.youtube.com/t/community_guidelines) your YouTube account Climate State has been suspended.
After review we determined that activity in your account violated our Community Guidelines, which prohibit spam, scams or commercially deceptive content ( https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/2801973?hl=en ).
Please be aware that you are prohibited from accessing, possessing or creating any other YouTube accounts. For more information about account terminations and how our Community Guidelines are enforced, please visit our Helper Center
The newly terminated channel https://www.youtube.com/user/ClimateState
YouTube again terminates Climate State, largest climate science channel https://t.co/s2V8QkIlUb
— Peter Sinclair (@PeterWSinclair) November 30, 2017
— Climate State (@climatestate) November 30, 2017
We appealed, it was declined, we asked why our channel has been terminated, so that we are able to properly respond, instead.
We have looked into your request and found that you have recently sent an appeal. Please wait for the result of your current appeal. If it has already been decided, please refer to that outcome. Note: You cannot appeal a second time.
The YouTube Team
The exact reason for the Climate State channel termination was not given, but the responsible staff singled out spam, scams, and commercially deceptive content. YouTube’s community guidelines are generally very broadly defined, actually very vague. We published literally hundreds of videos on climate change, with the scope on science, exactly 637 videos, over 1000 videos when counting both our suspended channels. Both channel combined had a lifetime view count hovering somewhere between 10 to 16 million views. Hence, it is an impossible task to determine the exact reason for the suspension, with the information provided.
In the following we will delve into the different issues raised, then outline the broader situation we have to deal with. Keep in mind that we are left with guessing a lot here, assumptions might be wrong, meaning either underestimating, or overestimating the real extent of suspicious channel activities. Activities which may or may not have contributed to the decision to deactivate us, to stop our operation entirely.
Did Climate State violated YouTube’s policy?
The policy guideline cited can be read here.
Video, channel, and comment spam
It’s not okay to post large amounts of untargeted, unwanted, or repetitive content in videos, comments, private messages, or other places on the site.
It’s not okay to post large amounts of repetitive and/or re-uploaded videos to your channel. If the main purpose of your channel is to monetize other channels’ content, it will likely violate our spam policies.
So after dealing with the various issues content creators face on YouTube, ranging from copyright, music licenses, catchy content presentation, timely publications, we are now told briefly, as vague as possible that large amounts of uploaded video material could be seen as a main purpose of video spam. About 20% of our content is for instance based on public domain published NASA videos, and similar, often edited slightly, adding different music, compiling different videos to get a message across, with a custom thumbnail added, or simply a re-upload of a science talk with enhanced audio quality.
Does the YouTube staff really believe that our main purpose was to spam content for monetary gains?
Our primary concern is always to bring attention to the various climate change topics, shared to a target audience, often the only chance to get viewers. It should be clear that the re-uploaded content always fit well into the scope of climate change we cover primarily at our channel. YouTube even provides the sharing video feature, for content published under creative commons. If YouTube suddenly doesn’t want re-uploads then this should be clearly communicated. If re-uploads are the reason for the channel termination, then YouTube should have warned us earlier, making use of the community standing panel, every channel contains. And when is it no longer considered a re-upload, is the addition of a custom intro and or outro enough? Do we have to add different music too, does it have to be an excerpt compilation? And when was this policy YouTube uses to justify terminating channels, banishing users entirely, written? Does it include publications published before this policy was worded this way?
Artificial traffic spam
Anything that artificially increases the number of views, likes, comments, or other metric either through the use of automatic systems or by serving up videos to unsuspecting viewers, is against our terms. Videos and accounts that are found to be in violation of our terms may be closed down and removed from YouTube.
After YouTube suspended our channel in January-February 2017, we had a brief email exchange with a staff member, who mentioned to us:
After review, we determined that activity in your account violated our Community Guidelines, which prohibit spam, scams or commercially deceptive content.
If the staff is referring here to traffic spam, then there is nothing we could possibly do to prevent such actions taken by 3rd parties, this topic will be addressed more in-depth below.
There are a couple of other violations explained such as misleading metadata, misleading or racy thumbnails, scams, and blackmail or extortion, which are clearly not relevant.
Let’s make a difference
Back to 2011 in a time machine, when we created the first YouTube channel Climate Progress World, a lot of climate content at YouTube was still dominated by denier talks. At the time the objective was to make climate science more widely available, focusing on content absent – not yet uploaded. For instance we uploaded what later became the most watched climate documentary on YouTube (until ~2013 or so), with over 1.2 million views Global Warming What You Need to Know with Tom Brokaw, or a BBC documentary about a climate solution, various interviews with scientists, a PBS documentary on climate denial and so on.
Fake copyright strikes
Probably because the mentioned global warming documentary with Tom Brokaw got so much attention triggered someone with a public email account to file a copyright strike for that video. Informing YouTube staff at the time, the strike was dismissed, and the video remained available worldwide. Attempts to moderate the video which got over 5000 comments, turned out a tedious task, often the moderation tool wasn’t working properly, comments reappearing, and time consuming to look after the latest comment claims along the lines of announcing that the scientists have it all wrong, or that it is getting colder, that it is all a religion, a big scam, a plot for world government.
At our main channel, Climate State – created in 2012, the scope evolved to better sort out video rights, and to create our own content. This channel too had a very successful video, with around 1.3 million views, until (again) someone from a public email account filed a copyright strike in 2013. That video is still available on various other channels with millions of views, highlighting that someone singled out our channel specifically. This year again a copyright strike from a public email account, but this time we challenged it again with success. However, the video was unavailable for over a month, when it had gotten most of the views.
And indeed there are many stories of YouTube channels being shut down in a similar fashion, through faked copyright strikes. However, since copyright violations are not mentioned it appears unlikely that this was used to justify disabling our channel. Yet, they might have factored past incidents into their final decision, no matter. Nobody knows for sure.
How deniers regularly spam the comment sections
From day one there was a constant daily comment spam, regular subscribers know that all too well. Those comments can be divided into ad hominems, lies, creating confusion, anger inducing, cherry picking arguments, disruptive, spam, denial. If we go back to what YouTube considers comment spam violation, then this was often visible, but entirely not in our control, quite the opposite. In fact there are up to two thousand accounts banned on both our channels, because of misleading comment content. Are comments, which may or may not originate from automated processes factored into the decision by YouTube to shut us down? We don’t know.
Continuous persistent down voting
Often after publishing a video, within seconds to a few minutes there are 1-3 downvotes, it appears, tied to video metadata, video titles, keywords like climate change, global warming, or certain names, suggesting automated processes. There are many examples when newly added videos with growing view count and positive votes, suddenly get spikes of disruptive comment spam, and down votes, unusual patterns when compared to previous comment voting statistics. While this could be simply because someone shared the video in a particular circle, this happened way too often to be just isolated coincidences. Commenters logged into their accounts, ready to vote down and post something nasty. And indeed we saw our videos have been brought to the attention at the infamous climate denial WUWT blog.
People usually consume content they agree with, but way too often with successful content at our channel we noticed attempts to vote content down and to disrupt comment sections.
The report a video feature
We cannot confirm or deny this but there is also the possibility that there have been efforts to report certain content, abusing YouTube’s report feature.
Denier mischief- fake reports by denier-bots. They don’t have the facts on their side, all they’ve got is deception and underhanded acts of malicious intent.
— Michael E. Mann (@MichaelEMann) November 30, 2017
Just like the climate denial industry, video view count manipulation is a big business. Universal and Sony Record Companies Caught Faking Billions of YouTube Views
CNBC 2014: Google said it was cracking down on certain tactics used to increase the number of people who view a video, like purchasing views from a third-party website.
YouTube hinted to us that they might have terminated our channel because of artificial traffic spam. Anything that artificially increases the number of views, likes, comments, or other metric through the use of automatic systems. And case in point, earlier this year we indeed noticed some irregularities with a couple of rather not so important videos. Videos which had already reduced view counts or very little, a couple of days or weeks old suddenly got four digit gains. Sure, that can happen from time to time, but generally with prime content, videos which already had substantial views.
Additional and maybe more suspicious the view count then appears to have often halted with very even digit view count numbers, ie. 5000, 3500, 12000. Bottomline is, as someone who uses automated systems (bots), so called view bots, to increase video view count, wouldn’t you rather push newly and trendy videos, in an effort to better cover your actions and with the intend to make a video trendy? And wouldn’t you use uneven view counts, once you stop view botting? And wouldn’t you use more than four digit view counts?
Anyway, these were considered isolated incidents, but later in February, YouTube terminated the channel for the first time. Then when appealing we were told:
As you are a valued partner for us, I had the YouTube specialist re-check this violation. I’d like to inform you that our specialist team decided that the suspension will not be changed since it violated our policies.
How Orwellian can it get? Following above reply by the YouTube staff to our suspension appeal we were asked the following:
— Michael E. Mann (@MichaelEMann) December 1, 2017
While they did not provide a clear reason in February, one staff member mentioned our channel activity, and citing spam violations. After becoming aware that there might be a view bot issue, we reported the channel for irregularities to YouTube. We never heard back from YouTube in that regard.
We never encouraged view hacking, and we think it is bad, but basically it appears to be a minor issue when judging from our views, which are not unusual. Our views hover in the lower four digits, or below, sometimes five or six digits, but those are rare. If this indeed was the reason for the channel termination (again we can just guess based on the cited community guidelines), everybody could accomplish a channel removal with the help of view-comment spam bots.
Climate State has been targeted many times
There are daily hack attacks at ClimateState.com, below the attacks blocked in November 2017, which highlights a broader approach.
With the outline above, a picture of continued efforts by various entities emerges, showing that the largest climate change video channel in the world has been continuously targeted. With the termination a dream has come true for those who seek to censor climate sciences.
We want to know why our channel has been terminated. Why is YouTube not communicating clearly what the problem is?
So what’s next for us? While we still hope that YouTube reinstates the channel, we were busy and already created a petition, which will be submitted to YouTube’s CEO, already over thousand have signed it. If the channel remains suspended we will likely have to cease our operations entirely. There is no funding, other than from our patrons, and the little ad revenue we made kept us going.
— resist, nontheist,,eles.orcas, evid (@joymurley1) November 30, 2017
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