2018 was not what you would call a great year for the world’s largest video platform, nor for some of the influencers who use it to make a living.
Case in point: the Logan Paul incident. The YouTube star caused widespread anger when he uploaded a video that included footage of a body of person who died of suicide in the Aokigahara forrest in Japan to his – at the time – 15 million subscribers, most of whom are tweens.
This incident, which only hurt Paul in the immediate term (he now has over 18 million subscribers) highlighted some fundamental challenges facing YouTube; managing user-generated content on a platform that prides itself as democratic, filtering content to young users and relying too much on their algorithms alone to police, monitor, and push content.
However, in the midst of all of this, 2018 was also the year that YouTube increased its funding for its Creators for Change initiative, a program that provides production and marketing support to a select, diverse group of YouTube creators to harness the power of the platform to bring about positive change.
“As a global platform, we need to lift up the voices who are committed to exploring and encouraging positive social change.”
This seems like a neat antidote to the rogue content and slew of bad stories about the platform; funding quality content that shows YouTube is about more than just generating views by any means necessary. According to YouTube, though, Creators for Change is not a look-over-here manoeuvre; it is an attempt to amplify the voices of creators using the platform to inflict social change.
“We recognise that as a global platform, we need to lift up the voices who are committed to exploring and encouraging positive social change,” a YouTube spokesperson writes in an email to Mashable.
This year, that has resulted in a wide range of content from 31 creators world wide. Here in the UK, two such creators are Humza Productions, who used the program to make Boys Don’t Cry, a short film exploring toxic masculinity, and beauty vlogger My Pale Skin, who made Redefine Pretty, a film about social media’s negative effect on body image.
Another is Riyadh Khalaf, a 27-year-old YouTube content creator, journalist and radio host who used the initiative to pursue his dream of producing a documentary film.
Through Creators for Change, Khalaf produced Fighting for Pride, a 30 minute documentary about LGBTQ activists trying to arrange the first pride in the African country of Swaziland.
For him, Creators for Change represents more than an exercise in moving attention away from the platforms negative issues. It represents a chance for the YouTube community to prove that their work on the platform can be positive.
“[Creators for Change] shows the power of storytelling on YouTube,” Khalaf told Mashable. “We’re hitting back with content that is positive. I still truly believe that the good on the platform way, way, way outweighs the bad.”
Khalaf sees it as a way for YouTube and the community to celebrate the voices who have a “genuine, honest desire to make positive change.”
“Naturally, in an open ecosystem where media can be uploaded […] by any person, you’re going to get certain content, that isn’t positive,” Riyadh said. “But that’s not the identity of the platform. It’s so much broader and so much better.”
A YouTube spokesperson told Mashable that “Creators for Change is not an excuse or diversion tactic about sometimes surprising or inappropriate content on YouTube.”
“For us, Creators for Change is about fostering an open, encouraging and safer global community on YouTube,” the spokesperson said. “As ever, we do not allow videos that incite hatred or promote violence on YouTube and we work hard to remove infringing content quickly, through investments in machine learning and hiring more people.”
You can watch all of the Creators for Change content here.
If you want to talk to someone or are experiencing suicidal thoughts, text the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. For international resources, this list is a good place to start.