What's the line between enthusiastically showing your support and spamming the comments with useless information? YouTube found itself asking that question as it attempted to manage yet another debacle on its platform, blocking hundreds of users from accessing their Google accounts after they had posted strings of emotes during renowned gamer Markiplier's most recent livestream. Worse yet, it had denied the appeals from most people trying to get back into their accounts. The accounts have since been reinstated.
As Markiplier, known by his real name of Mark Fischbach, explains himself, the problem began during a livestream last Wednesday in which he provides a walkthrough for his choose-your-own-adventure YouTube Original series, "A Heist with Markiplier." He opted to gauge audience reaction for branching paths by having them respond in the chat with a green-colored or red-colored emotes. Later on, users were warned by moderators not to spam multiple lines with emotes lest their account be recognized as a spambot. However, Google was quicker to crank out suspensions than people were able to pick up on it.
— Heather Ray (@HeatherRay21238) November 9, 2019
Keep in mind that this didn't just affect YouTube accounts, but whole Google accounts. This would block access to Google Drive files, Google Photos, Google Play Store apps, any paid memberships like YouTube Premium, etc. Furthermore, most people who had appealed their suspension were denied without any explanation — YouTube assigns humans to oversee appeals.
Hi Mark - Apologies this happened and thanks for bringing it to our attention. The accounts have been reinstated and we're looking into why the appeals were denied and how we can prevent this in the future.
— TeamYouTube (@TeamYouTube) November 9, 2019
Fischbach and his moderators talked with his company contacts through the weekend to resolve the matter, but, as with many other issues, the company did not publicly go into detail.
I understand that transparency isn’t usually YouTube’s mode of operation, but when the problem runs this deep you have to give us the why or people won’t trust your platform.
— Markiplier (@markiplier) November 9, 2019
Yesterday, a YouTube anti-abuse software engineer took time to answer some of the questions posed on a Reddit thread. They claimed that all banned accounts should've been reinstated by Saturday night and that anyone could regain access to most of their Google accounts bar YouTube by authenticating via two-step verification measures (i.e. SMS code or authentication app).
We're looking into any accounts that haven't been recovered, and have connected with a few others who are sharing this info with us -- thanks!
— TeamYouTube (@TeamYouTube) November 9, 2019
"The whole-account 'ban' was a common anti-spam measure we use," wrote u/FunnyMan3595. "It's not intended to be a significant barrier for actual humans, only to block automated accounts from regaining access at scale."
Users claimed that they were not sent through this process and had no access at all to their accounts.
They went on to acknowledge the problem of banning users who were just only emote-spamming — even if they averaged over a hundred messages "within a short timeframe" — and that YouTube should not have denied the appeals. However, they also imply that the company has no intentions to abandon the automated and algorithmic frameworks it has set up to detect bad actors on the platform, noting that it removed millions of channels and millions more videos on top of the ones on those channels as well as hundreds of millions of comments in a single season. And indeed, there's still plenty of farm-produced spam to fry on YouTube and the need to prevent that behavior from spreading to different Google apps.
All that said, some users believe if it weren't for a creator like Markiplier — currently edging toward 25 million subscribers — leveraging his capital to elicit a response that their accounts would still be frozen today. Still, YouTube remains the destination for a variety of video content you wouldn't find or want to find on a competing site, which is not to say that other sites haven't tried, but most have failed. Even with much outrage regarding its practices, passionate YouTube users en masse have not been able to spark systemic change on how the deck is stacked.
For now, though, it seems we've come to almost full resolution to this event as Markiplier's latest video from this morning indicates. Some unbanned YouTube accounts may still have videos missing from their accounts at this point, but those should be back up in due time.