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Image from a LinkedIn Article about the ad boycott.

The YouTube Adpocalypse is a site-wide term coined in early 2017 to describe the mass advertiser boycotts and withdrawals on YouTube.

The First Adpocalypse

The first Adpocalypse can be traced back to August 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*gger" 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 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 both groups. Many accused the ad of devaluing the issue of Police brutality, specifically against Black people, by many interpreting the commercial as Police brutality and the Police interactions with the citizens around them being solved by drinking Pepsi. Due to the public outcry, Pepsi removed all future advertisements from YouTube, furthering the cycle of advertisers drifting 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 The Adpocalypse also happened because YouTube wanted to give attention to and reward 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.

The Second Adpocalypse

In November 2017, concerns regarding improper kids content occurred, causing Mars, Adidas, HP, and Deutsche Bank to pull ads from YouTube. YouTube responded by publishing a blog post and terminating one of the channels publishing this questionable content, 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, causing 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 went into Matt's decision to cause 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 Steven Crowder 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 himself and a dozen other political channels had their monetization banned completely. Three channels (one of them being Norwegian musician survivalist writer and convicted felon Varg Vikernes) were terminated entirely by YouTube. 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 stamp out 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 such as Leafy himself and Onision were left untouched by the new guidelines.