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YouTube announced Tuesday it had demonetized Russell Brand after the comedian and pundit was accused of sexual assault in a blockbuster investigation. Brand has more than 6 million subscribers on YouTube and he’ll no longer be able to make money from videos posted there. He has more than 11 million followers on Twitter, where a video of Brand denying the allegations against him went viral and has racked up more than 67 million views, according to the platform’s metrics.
Over the weekend, Channel 4 aired a documentary alongside a Times and Sunday Times newspaper investigation in which four women came forward to accuse Brand of crimes including rape. One of the accusers was 16 at the time of the incident. Brand published a video on Twitter before the allegations went public. He said that all his sexual interactions had been consensual and denied what he called “serious criminal allegations.” Twitter owner Elon Musk publicly lent his unequivocal support to Brand after the video, which claimed that upcoming allegations were part of a media conspiracy, was published. “Of course,” Musk said in reply to Brand’s video. “They don’t like competition.”“I support Russell Brand,” Musk said in another tweet two days later. “That man is not evil.”At the time of writing, Motherboard viewed numerous ads displayed alongside Brand’s posts on his Twitter timeline from multiple companies ranging from A24 to the World Gold Council. Ads are displayed directly under Brand’s denial video.
Twitter allows its creators to receive a share of the ad revenue that’s played in the feed next to their posts. How the system works is a bit of a mystery, but according to Twitter, a user needs to have a blue checkmark, opt into the program, and sign up for Stripe to process the transactions. If Brand is a content partner with Twitter and has monetized his account—he is subscribed to Twitter Blue but has not tweeted about receiving payments from the platform—he could have made money from the nearly three-minute video, even if he will be demonetized going forward.
Motherboard reached out to Twitter to ask if Brand’s account is monetized and received a boilerplate response. Since Musk’s takeover of the site last year, it has stonewalled journalists and until recently automatically replied to requests with a poop emoji. In the days after Twitter premiered the service, Twitter personalities like the Krassenstein brothers, Ian Miles Cheong, and Tim Pool posted screenshots of the checks they’d received from the program. Andrew Tate, who is facing rape and sex trafficking charges in Romania, claimed he was paid $20,379 by Twitter. Right-wing pundits Catturd and Laura Loomer have also received payouts from Twitter, although they complained that they were low despite their millions of impressions.According to Musk and Twitter, this is because the platform gives advertisers a measure of control over where their ads are placed. “Find advertisers who support you. We cannot force them to,” Musk told Loomer on Twitter.Last month, Twitter launched what it called “a new level of control for X advertisers…more than 1,900 global advertisers now leverage this solution to avoid adjacency to undesired keywords and handles with more than a 99% efficacy rate.”
The blog post about the service explained that advertisers can adjust sensitivity settings so that their ads don’t appear alongside content with certain keywords. “Avoidance example: targeted hate speech, sexual content, gratuitous gore, excessive profanity, obscenity, spam, drugs,” the post said. “In collaboration with industry partners, we’ve also created an automated, industry-standard blocklist that aims to protect advertisers from appearing adjacent to unsafe keywords in the Home Timeline (i.e. For You and Following).” How, exactly, these blocklists work and which accounts are sanctioned is unknown. Twitter has also published a list of “creator monetization standards.” According to Twitter, “these rules mitigate risk of harm to Twitter and its customers, while ensuring that creators derive the utmost value from monetization features.”The rules include broad proscriptions against depicting or describing “criminal behaviors”, “graphic content”, and the promotion of illicit drugs and restricted services like gambling. The guidelines state that Twitter makes determinations on a case by case basis and there may be exceptions. In its statement to the press, YouTube cited its own terms of service as the reason it demonetized Brand. “We have suspended monetization on Russell Brand’s channel for violating our Creator Responsibility policy,” a YouTube spokesperson said Tuesday. “If a creator’s off-platform behavior harms our users, employees or ecosystem, we take action to protect the community.”Brand’s response is a flatout denial boosted with conspiracy theories. In his telling, a cabal of journalists are making him out to be a sex criminal because he’s getting too close to “the truth.” That’s nonsense, but conspiracy theorists have rushed to his defense.