Sunday, September 27, 2009

(empo-utoobd) How YouTube Earned My Customer Service Darwin Award

In a previous post, I added a postscript about how Google yanked my YouTube account with no notification, only giving me the message "Your account has been permanently disabled." Finding a link that purported to provide me with more information, I clicked it. As I noted in the prior post, this resulted in the following email from Google:

Hi empoprises,

Thanks for your email. Your "empoprises" account has been found to have violated our Community Guidelines. Your account has now been terminated. Please be aware that you are prohibited from accessing, possessing or creating any other YouTube accounts.

YouTube staff review flagged videos 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate our Community Guidelines. When a video or account is brought to our attention we investigate and take action if necessary.

We are unable to provide specific detail regarding your account suspension or your video's removal. For more information on our what we consider inappropriate content or conduct while using YouTube, please visit our Community Guidelines and Tips at and our Help Center article at


The YouTube Team

My initial reaction, after noting that Jeff Pulver has had a similar experience, was to explore other stories of Google's policies regarding its terms of service. My story is relatively uninteresting, since I don't depend upon YouTube for business purposes. (In fact, I don't even depend upon it for personal purposes.)

Incidentally, after my initial reaction, I think I finally figured out what my violation may have been. When I wrote the original post on Friday, I did not recall uploading any videos to this account. However, I subsequently realized that I had uploaded a video of two people dancing - a video that was not publicly accessible. (No, not THAT kind of dancing - I just didn't think the dancers wanted everyone to see their dance moves.) And then I recalled that video had music...which probably triggered some type of nasty slap.

Unfortunately, Google's policies don't even allow me to access my account to see what the problem was - whether it was that video, or perhaps some comment that I made to someone else's video that caused another person offense. Did I call a conservative a baby seal clubber? Did I call a liberal a Communist? No way to know, and no way offered to contact someone, by email or otherwise, to find out my offense. Remember, my only contact with Google explicitly stated:

We are unable to provide specific detail regarding your account suspension or your video's removal.

Well, that WAS my only contact with Google - until now. As the automated Google service continue to chug along, Google has requested feedback on my recent question (i.e. the "why was my YouTube account suspended" question, which garnered the "we are unable to provide specific detail" reply.

Here's the email that I just received from Google:

Dear YouTube User,

Thank you for contacting us about your query 515418251.

We are eager to hear about your YouTube experience. Please take a minute
to answer this short survey about your satisfaction with YouTube support:

After providing me with a link, the email concluded:

We value your thoughts.

The YouTube Support Team

* Find out more about at

P. S. Please don't respond to this email -- we won't receive it!

Well, Google won't receive a response to the email, but Google certainly will receive my survey:

In case the image is too small to be readable, you can rest assured that I marked "Very Dissatisfied" to both categories. I did give YouTube credit for providing feedback that was "easy to understand," "respectful," and "timely," but graded them low on the "specific" (what violation?), "relevant" (no way to correct!), and "complete" categories.

My free-form response was as follows:

My YouTube account was disabled with no notice, no explanation given, no ability to rectify the situation, and no ability to contact anyone to rectify the situation. Am I supposed to be "very satisfied" about Google's lack of customer service?

Now I have no illusions about this having any effect - more than likely, the responses will just be filed away somewhere and compounded into metric reports, and sometime in 2010 a Google report will state something like this:

Our survey data indicates that people whose YouTube accounts are terminated are very dissatisfied with Google's service. Further study is required to ascertain why these people are very dissatisfied, and what proactive steps need to be taken to make our customers very satisfied with our no-notice termination policy.

Now obviously there's another avenue - going around channels and getting someone to help. Jeff Pulver obviously had some pull, was able to find a Google contact, and get his situation fixed. And I could probably use my hundreds of contacts to find someone at Google who can find a human in the YouTube division to give me an actual explanation of what happened.

But that's not the point.

The point is that YouTube has a system that is broken. I've had problems. Pulver has had problems. And I'm sure others have had problems too.

Hence a new series - empo-utoobd. This joins my other series, which at present include empo-tuulwey and empo-tymshft, as well as the series oow09 which is being used by multiple people. I want to look for people who have been YouTubed, why they were YouTubed, and what, if anything, they did about it.

And if there are any updates on my personal situation, I'll post them in this series also. But I'm primarily interested in overall trends here.
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