YouTube is apparently cracking down on fake views, or black hat view inflation, as forums lit up from users wondering why their accounts were being hit by a "Violation of TOU #4 Section H" disclaimer. Views started disappearing from the bottom line, and The Daily Dot pointed out that three big record companies, Universal, Sony/BMG, and RCA Records, had lost an astounding 2 billion views combined. A forum got started a few days ago from confused users, and when YouTube finally got around to answering it, the case was made clear: YouTube has had it with black hat views.
YouTube's View Policy
Here's a look at a graph from SocialBlade concerning the December 18 stripping of Universal's views:
Universal has been using VEVO for awhile, so the views being stripped from their home channel is almost negligible since the "Universal" channel has been unused for quite some time.
Google Forums started to discuss the violations in the usual, "What the heck?" manner. YouTube's "ytDangler" came onto the forum and stated:
This was not a bug or a security breach. This was an enforcement of our viewcount policy.
To read more about YouTube's stance on viewcount gaming, please see here: http://youtubecreator.
You can click the link above to see the YouTube Creator Blog describe what constitutes a view. So let's take a look at the view policy for a second:
Views Are Actions That Users Want To Make
YouTube wants a view to be something that people choose to watch. A voluntary clicking on a title for a video. Simple enough.
What Constitutes A Violation
Anything that creates a view through automated means: for example, a bot. Bots can manipulate a video's view count to make it look like someone really watched the video, when it reality it was played in the dark realms of cyberspace without any eyeballs gracing a screen.
The other violation is when people use companies who use shady means to inflate view counts and then come back to their clients with bogus numbers. People hire these companies knowingly and unknowingly, so it's good to thoroughly vet a business that claims they can increase your view count.
YouTube also makes mention of some kinds of link trickery, where a link to something somebody would like to watch turns out to be a video they don't want to watch. For instance, if I wrote, "Click here to win $100!" and you were taken to a video of a cat playing with string, that shouldn't count.
It might also be serving up embedded videos instead of intended content, serving pop-unders, re-directing and/or a variety of other methods people use to try to inflate viewership.
YouTube is not distinguishing between those who unknowingly use black hat businesses and those who knowingly do. So there might be a lot of confusion out there from those who are losing views who don't know that anything they've done is wrong.
The problem with that is…sometimes black hatters are working their magic on videos where no one asked them to do it. Maybe a black hatter likes a certain video and wants it to succeed, and just "helps out a friend," so to speak. So the question is whether YouTube can distinguish the difference on that front. If not, there's going to be a lot of angry people should YouTube decide to start yanking videos and pulling accounts.
The Daily Dot has an excellent look at all of this, and how the site Black Hat World lit up in response to the recent crackdown.