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YouTube Adpocalypse (a portmanteau of the words "ad" and "apocalypse") is a site-wide term coined in early 2017 to describe a mass advertiser boycott and withdrawal on YouTube. Such an event can come as a result of notable community guidelines violations from YouTube personalities, which receive large media coverage. Such violations may threaten the brand image of the site and its parent company Google.

The first Adpocalypse[]

The first Adpocalypse can be traced back to early September 2016 after YouTube dramatically shifted their focus towards "Family-Friendly" content, affecting many channels with adult audiences and undertones including Philip DeFranco.

In February 2017, PewDiePie, the most subscribed YouTuber at the time, came under fire for posting videos that YouTube deemed "Anti-Semitic" and "hate-speech". These videos included references and jokes about Adolf Hitler as well as two Indian men holding a sign stating "Death to all Jews". At the same time, videos including, "Chief Keef dancing to Alabama N****r" and other extremist content were surfacing, leading to the UK Government, Coca-Cola, Dr. Pepper, Johnson & Johnson, and many major brands pulling or pausing their advertisements on YouTube.

In May 2017, famous American reality TV personality and model Kendall Jenner was featured in a YouTube Pepsi advertisement which drew criticism from the press due to the video consisting of her giving a Pepsi can to a police officer during a protest between civil rights activists and the police, resolving the tension between the two groups. Many accused the ad of devaluing the issue of police brutality, specifically against Black people. Due to the public outcry, Pepsi removed all future advertisements from YouTube, furthering the cycle of advertisers leaving from the site.

During the Summer of 2017, advertisers dwindled even more, only being shown on channels that were considered "Family Friendly". Many content creators joked and complained that their net worth had decreased due to YouTube and advertisers not deeming them "Family Friendly". This caused many smaller and aspiring creators to leave the site, having become discouraged from being a creator on the platform. Many content creators that stayed changed and/or deleted their older video titles, thumbnails, and content so as to not be demonetized. Some even changed or added content to their YouTube brand that was deemed more advertiser-friendly by YouTube.

Many within the YouTube community feel that YouTube adopted this policy because it wanted to incentivize creators who were promoting a favored agenda. h3h3productions further proved that YouTube advertisements were more likely to go on television-based channels rather than user-generated ones, even if both parties support or show the same agenda. Some of these companies were the ones who pulled their advertisements during the Adpocalypse.

Scam ads[]

When the legitimate advertisers dwindled on the platform during the 1st and 2nd adpocalypse, the scam ads started and got revived.

The second Adpocalypse[]

In November 2017, concerns regarding improper children's content on channels such as Toy Freaks prompted Mars, Adidas, HP, and Deutsche Bank to pull ads from YouTube. YouTube responded by terminating Toy Freaks, which had 8.5 million subscribers.

In January 2018, YouTube further updated its policies, restricting the partner program to channels with more than 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 watch hours per year. This caused outrage in the community, especially from smaller creators who didn't reach the new requirements. During this time, another incident regarding YouTuber Logan Paul showing and reacting to a corpse in one of his vlogs surfaced, prompting the widespread belief that YouTube was punishing small creators for something Paul had done. Paul's actions, however, did prompt a new policy altogether.

The third Adpocalypse[]

On February 18, 2019, YouTuber MattsWhatItIs posted a video showing what he referred to as a "soft-core pedophilia ring" on the site, placing the blame on YouTube's algorithm. He then told his fanbase to report this to the companies putting their ads on the site with the hashtag #YouTubewakeup.

YouTube's response to the controversy was to delete more than 400 channels and suspend comments on tens of millions of videos as the site tried to fix the problem, reporting offending users to law enforcement. The site then assured that more would be done to catch inappropriate comments more quickly. Despite these measures, major brands such as Disney, Dr. Oetker, Hasbro, Epic Games, Nestle and AT&T (who had just put their ads back on the site a month earlier after 2 years) all pulled their ads from the site within days as the controversy started gaining mass media attention.

This did not sit well with the community. Creators and users actively feared that the situation was starting yet another Adpocalypse, which would undoubtedly bring more rule changes, more content being barred or censored, and more innocent users getting wrongfully demonetized and banned from the site.

Much criticism was leveled at Matt for causing a public outcry. While some believed he had good intentions, many criticized him for inadvertently starting another Adpocalypse so soon after the site had finally started to recover from the first one. In particular, the community found Matt's public call to action to be the wrong approach for dealing with the problem, stating that it would hurt creators in the long run.

The fourth Adpocalypse[]

On May 24, 2019, Vox reporter Carlos Maza began contacting YouTube demanding that they demonetize and stop ‘hate speech’ on the platform after conservative comedian and online talk show host StevenCrowder repeatedly made jokes at Maza's expense based on his ethnicity and sexual orientation. On June 5, 2019, YouTube adjusted the Terms of Service to tighten monetization policies further, thus stripping monetization from dozens of accounts and terminating others. This was met with criticism by parts of the community, who dubbed it “Vox Adpocalypse” or “Adpocalypse 2.0”.

Several conservative channels such as Black Pigeon Speaks, The Golden One, Crowder, and a dozen other political content channels were demonetizated., and three channels (one of them being Norwegian musician survivalist writer and convicted felon Varg Vikernes) were terminated. Many conservatives accused YouTube of anti-conservative bias while other YouTubers (such as Styxhexenhammer666 and Ben Shapiro) believed it was corporations like Vox wanting to quash competition.

In December 2019, a new policy for anti-harassment and bullying was enacted, which many believe was made in response to this controversy. While it was praised by some for making it harder to harass creators, others criticized it for being unnecessary and running the risk of false positives. One such example of this was the Content Cop video on Leafy, a video which had been integral in exposing Leafy's controversial behavior, getting retroactively taken down while troublesome creators like Onision were left untouched by the new guidelines.