From December 10th-13th, 2019 (December 14th-17th for those in the UK due to the desire to not limit access to important political news during an election period), YouTube creators and their supporters went on strike, refusing to upload or watch any content or even log onto the site, to protest YouTube’s new terms of service. The new policies put many creators at risk of losing income, and for some, their entire channels. The walkout was the collective effort of the YouTubers Union and the FairTube campaign and their allies. Both of these campaigns are an example of grassroots wildcat unionism, something championed by syndicalists and agorists alike.
The typical agorist response to a corporate giant like YouTube is to create a more decentralized alternative. Thankfully there have been many such alternatives that have been made by activists and programmers concerned with issues of privacy and free speech. BitChute, DTube, and PeerTube are probably the biggest examples in the current market. While BitChute and DTube seem to have been mostly overrun with alt-right types in the wake of previous YouTube censorship policies which successfully drove many of them offsite, PeerTube seems to be decidedly more left-friendly. That being said, there’s no reason to cede a good platform to the alt-right just because they flocked to it first. We need hardcore leftists and anarchists of all stripes to flock to these platforms themselves and disrupt the algorithm in hopes of yanking a few misguided souls out of the alt-right rabbit hole.
So if there are usable alternatives such as PeerTube, DTube, and BitChute, why bother trying to unionize YouTube? Well, it’s simple, really: YouTube still has the biggest audience. Sure, creators could move to alternative platforms, but it’s not a guarantee their audience will go with them. Plus, while DTube and BitChute allow users to tip creators directly and DTube even awards creators in cryptocurrency for the traffic they create, such alternatives are often less reliable as a source of income than the ad revenue that can come from running a channel on YouTube.
So yes, start your BitChute, DTube, or PeerTube channel and fund it using SubscribeStar or Bitbacker (although can we all please agree to just let Hatreon die?) if that’s what you want to do, but at the same time don’t forget about the hardworking working class people that make a living as YouTube content creators and who refuse to be driven off of a platform their content helped to build into the financial success it is today.
And sure, the strike didn’t bring YouTube to its knees nor did the strikers win their demand to halt the new terms of service change, but that was expected. This was merely a trial exercise and one of the first steps to building solidarity. But even a smaller action like this did help to show our power as YouTube’s traffic did noticeably decrease, even if only slightly, during the strike, sending a clear message to the corporate giants: they need to listen to the creators on their platform and their needs, or face financial blowback.
As of the writing of this article, the campaign has not announced their next step, but more information can be found on the FairTube and YouTubers Union websites and social media moving forward for those who wish to keep updated. Don’t just consume content, support those who create it.