Google AdSense Strikes Again!!!
StormCloudsGathering is Under Attack – Major Changes Coming [Updated September 24th]
If you’ve followed this channel for a while you might have noticed that I almost never talk about myself. My policy has been to focus on the facts rather than personality. As such, I’ve avoided addressing a situation that has been building up for a while now. I’m only going public with this now because the attack we’re facing threatens the future of this channel and is placing my family in a very bad spot. To survive we’re going to have to adapt very quickly.
We started this project in February of 2010 right after I found out that I was going to be a father. That was my motivation. To influence the world I was bringing my kid into. I had no idea where to start, but I felt like I had to try.
In the beginning we just made walk and talk videos, often carrying the baby. I didn’t know a thing about video editing, or animation or even basic presentation, and it showed. Our audience was tiny, and our videos rarely got more than a couple of hundred views. And some point we started getting offers to monetize the channel but I refused. First of all because I was suspicious, and secondly because I had a day job.
Over time I taught myself video editing, animation and voice over technique. We started accepting donations which we used to purchase a decent microphone, an audio interface, software and computer hardware. And I got more and more strict about research and documentation. As a result our videos started to get more traction, and our audience grew.
By 2012 we had 20,000 subscribers, but our impact was still marginal. I only made videos when I had free time. When pressures from work or family life were too heavy I didn’t post. Sometimes the gaps were several months long.
That year my wife and I decided to shift gears and work on this project full time. From what we had seen this was the only way we were going to be able to make it really work.
The donations we were getting weren’t enough to cover our living expenses, and I have never liked asking for donations, so we decided to enable youtube monetization and Adsense on our website.
This was a major gamble, and at first it didn’t work, and we were burning through our savings. After about a year our channel took off, and getting hundreds of thousands of views on a video became the norm rather than the exception. More importantly we started seeing signs that what we were doing was having an impact. This was around the time our second child was born.
We had a brief period of stability, but as our work began to get traction we started getting attacked.
We had dealt with fraudulent copyright claims for a long time, but then we having videos demonetized with no explanation. These videos were always the ones that challenged the official narrative on highly charged topics. Videos that talked about what the U.S. government was doing in Syria, Iraq and Ukraine, videos that embarrassed powerful politicians and corporations, videos that exposed U.S. involvement in terrorist activities. On these take-downs there was no notification, no reason given, and no way to appeal.
At first these attacks came one at a time, and a pattern emerged. There were certain things that somebody did not want us to talk about. This message has been sent in numerous ways.
If you talk about Israel…
you’re going to have a bad time.
If you talk about what they U.S. their allies have been up to in Syria…
you’re going to have a bad time.
If you present evidence of war crimes and name names…
you’re going to have a bad time.
Trouble is, I feel morally obligated to address these issues even if that means working for a month or two months for free (and often it has). These financial hits hurt, but we tightened our budget and we survived.
However in 2015 something changed. The pressure was ratcheted up several levels, and all at once. Suddenly 56 of our videos, going all the way back to 2013 were demonetized. This included almost all of our successful videos. Some of them with close to 3 million views. Again there were no copyright claims on these videos, no policy violations, and there was no way to appeal.
I did a little investigation and I discovered that Youtube had altered their terms to extend their blacklist to include “Controversial or sensitive subjects and events, including subjects related to war, political conflicts, natural disasters and tragedies, even if graphic imagery is not shown”. So basically news is off limits, any topic that matters, is off limits.
Now this is not speculation at this point. We have a contact within Google who has checked into this for us, and they’ve confirmed that talking about war is indeed problematic.
And he even offered to help us come up with advertiser friendly content, which is a nice gesture, but this is an ant-war channel. We can’t work to prevent the public from being corralled towards a war if we can’t talk about war, and I’m not going to be silent about war crimes to avoid financial difficulty. That’s not even an option, but we are going to have to adapt and quickly.
This latest move by youtube comes at a very bad time for my family. The last few months we’ve been investing all of our time and resources into setting up a permaculture education center in a developing country in a very rural location with no utilities and an extremely bad road. This project is a big part of the future direction of the channel.
All of our savings into getting that project started so we have no cushion. We’ve also had a series of major setbacks that hit right around the same time including a natural disaster that totaled the infrastructure here (major flooding and landslides).
Right now, we aren’t making enough money to cover food and rent, and our rent is $700 a month. So like it or not, it’s time for a major shift.
Putting out more content isn’t going to help. Youtube is applying this policy on new videos as well, so there’s no way to make up for these losses by working harder.
The game is rigged, so we’ve decided not to play anymore. My wife and I have discussed this and we’ve decided to never hit the monetize button on this channel ever again (even for less controversial topics that might slip through).
Money is being used as a weapon, so it doesn’t make any sense to hand them bullets.
Instead effective immediately we’re putting the future of this project in your hands. We’ve updated the donate page on our website to reflect this change, and we will keep that page current as the situation evolves.
We have a lot of highly motivated supporters (460,000 subscribers on youtube, 290k on facebook, 25,000 on twitter), and you guys are not the average audience. You really care about the issues that we report on. I know you guys will support us enough to make ends meet. And the truth is I have a feeling that this is going to be a positive change.
I’ve wanted to focus on the solutions on this channel rather than just exposing the problems for a long time now, but I didn’t want it to just be talk. It has to be real, it has to be practical, it has to be tangible, it has to happen in the physical world.
Behind the scenes we’ve been working towards this. We pooled our resources with other families and got the land to build this educational center. We’re calling it a permaculture center, but permaculture is really just one aspect. (We’ll go into more detail in later videos.)
If you want to make sure you keep with what we’re doing, our website, stormcloudsgathering.com will be the ultimate point of reference. There we’ll always link to our current email sign up, social media accounts and videos.