YouTube stars are voicing their frustration after the platform announced changes to its verification program.
Like other platforms, YouTube offers a checkmark next to some channels to indicate that the account actually belongs to a notable person or brand — whether that’s a YouTube creator, celebrity, musical artist or company.
Now those eligibility requirements will change, and YouTube is notifying some people with checkmarks via email that they will lose their verification badge in late October. Those people can appeal the decision through a form. (The form asks YouTubers to provide information such as news articles written about them and whether their channel name could be confused with a different account.)
“It’s so crazy to me that I’ve had my verification badge for 2 years and have almost half a million subs [subscribers], but yet, because I’m not a celebrity or big corporation, none of that matters to YouTube,” Adam Wright, a YouTube creator and aspiring music producer, wrote on Twitter.
In a blog post on Thursday, YouTube said the move is an effort to help clear up confusion about what it means to be verified, and to give the checkmark a new appearance.
“Through our research, we found that viewers often associated the checkmark with an endorsement of content, not identity. To reduce confusion about what being verified means, we’re introducing a new look that helps distinguish the official channel of the creator, celebrity or brand it represents,” the company said in a blog post.
It also said the verified checkmark has been displayed inconsistently across YouTube and it wants to fix this. For example, a verification badge has never been shown on mobile devices, but soon will be.
For some creators, a checkmark comes with prestige and a validation of their work on the platform. Losing verification could also impact how easy it is to find a YouTuber’s account in search — and some creators are concerned that without a verified badge it can be harder for their fans to tell if it’s their real account.
Brittany Vasseur, a YouTube creator with over 1.2 million subscribers, told CNN Business bad actors have copied her videos and tried to impersonate her to scam her followers.
“[This has happened] specifically by people who contact my subscribers claiming to be me saying they have won a giveaway,” she said. “Yet apparently to YouTube I am not considered relevant.”
A YouTube creator known as “Emilia Fart” said getting her checkmark made her feel like she was finally a “real YouTuber.” On Thursday, she was informed via email that her verification badge would be removed. She has over 780,000 subscribers.
“It’s like getting a corner office from your boss, and then he takes it away and puts you in the basement or something,” she told CNN Business.
Sierra Schultz — a YouTube personality known as Sierra Schultzzie who has nearly 950,000 subscribers — said she’s been able to interact with and befriend other creators because she’s notified when another verified channel comments on her videos.
“I like seeing comments from other creators that otherwise could have gotten buried. It makes it easier for me to make friends online and collaborate,” she tweeted.
But not everyone is concerned. One creator behind the YouTube account “AviatorPlays Roblox” said the platform is always changing and creators will adapt. “You won’t even remember what a verification badge was in 6 months,” he said on Twitter.
Previously, channels with over 100,000 subscribers could be verified and didn’t have to prove their authenticity.
“That worked well when YouTube was smaller, but as YouTube has grown and the ecosystem has become more complex, we needed a new way to verify the identity of channels and help users find the official channel they’re looking for,” YouTube said in the blog post.
Now, there are new requirements including: “Does this channel belong to the real creator, artist, public figure or company it claims to represent?” and “Is this channel widely recognized outside of YouTube and have a strong presence online?”
YouTube also clarified that no creators have lost badges yet, it has simply started to notify those people who will be impacted.
Verification badges aren’t unique to YouTube — and other platforms have also struggled with how to handle the process. Public figures, including celebrities, social media stars and journalists can be verified on other platforms, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
In 2017, Twitter paused its blue checkmark verifications after critics attacked the company for authenticating an account belonging to a man who organized a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
At the time, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said the company “realized some time ago the system is broken and needs to be reconsidered.” Its verification program has yet to resume.