A conservative Christian activist is crying foul after YouTube demonetized his ministry's YouTube page this month for apparent noncompliance with YouTube's advertising policy.
Tennessee resident Richard Penkoski leads the "pre-denominational" ministry Warriors for Christ, which claims that “snatching people from Hell is our business.”
In addition to holding protests in opposition to Drag Queen Story Hour events across the country, the ministry regularly posts videos on YouTube and Facebook voicing biblical objections to homosexuality, transgender identity and abortion.
Penkoski told The Christian Post that the Warriors for Christ YouTube page of over 560,000 followers used to net his ministry an income of somewhere around $600 per month.
But in mid-August, all of the videos on the Warriors for Christ YouTube channel were “demonetized,” meaning that they are not eligible to receive advertising revenue.
Penkoski explained that YouTube informed him in a notification that his videos were reviewed and ruled unsuitable “for all advertisers” and that his channel's videos will “run limited to no adds.” He added that he was given no explanation from YouTube as to how the videos violated YouTube’s advertiser-friend guidelines.
Some of the videos that were ruled unsuitable for advertisers include titles like “God’s Word is True: Geologist Says Unusual Discovery in Antartica Confirms Biblical Flood Account,” “WWE Star Sting Confesses Christ,” “Is Easter a Pagan Holiday?,” and “Jesus is our Deliverer! Powerful Spiritual Warfare and Healing Scriptures.”
Penkoski explained that since he created the Warriors for Christ YouTube channel over four years ago, about 80 percent of his videos had been demonetized for one reason or another. But now all of his videos are ineligible for advertising revenue.
“I noticed that every video had that yellow dollar sign which means limited to no ads. So, I went on late at night and went through the support system for content creators. They wouldn’t give me any answers,” Penkoski detailed. “This impacted every video, including prayer videos and ones that mentioned nothing about LGBT. We had other videos that were earlier reviewed and deemed OK that were also demonetized.”
Penkoski told CP that he communicated over a series of days with a YouTube representative in an appeal to have the videos remonetized. Penkoski sent links to every video on the channel to be manually reviewed.
“I hate to break this to you, unfortunately, your channel cannot monetize due to non-compliance with our advertiser-friendly guidelines,” the representative told Penkoski in an email shared with CP. “I am afraid this decision cannot be overturned.”
Penkoski said the YouTube representative didn’t provide any specifics to him about the decision.
“So I asked him again. I said, ‘Let me get this straight. You're telling me that we are demonetized and you can’t give me the reasons what specifics but just be assured that you did violate our policies?’” Penkoski recalled. “So, they won’t tell me what I did but just want me to be assured that I did do it.”
In addition to the demonetization, Penkoski claims that the Warriors for Christ YouTube channel is now being “throttled” in the sense that the channel’s videos are not receiving the same kind of reach across the platform that they had previously. Despite having over a half-million followers, Penkoski said the ministry’s videos are struggling to reach even 5,000 of them.
In a statement provided to CP, a YouTube spokesperson said that “all content on YouTube is subject to our Community Guidelines, which we enforce consistently regardless of the channel.”
“In order for a channel to be eligible for advertising, it must also comply with our Advertiser-Friendly Guidelines, which prohibit hateful content, violence, and controversial issues,” the spokesperson added but did not provide specifics as to how Penkoski’s videos violated the guidelines.
YouTube claims to enforce its policies without any regard for viewpoint or religious beliefs. The organization also has strict policies that govern the kind of videos that can show ads.
According to YouTube, videos that include hate speech, violence, and controversial subjects violate the company's advertising guidelines.
“Content that features or focuses on sensitive topics or events is generally not suitable for ads,” the policy reads. “This policy applies even if the content is purely commentary or contains no graphic imagery.”
Additionally, YouTube’s advertising rules state that content that appears to be appropriate for a general audience but “contains adult themes” is also not suitable for advertising.
Prominent religious conservatives have spoken out in recent years after their YouTube channels were demonetized or the reach of their videos were somehow restricted. Those include Messianic Jewish radio host Michael Brown, the conservative nonprofit PragerU, and conservative pundit Steven Crowder.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals heard PragerU’s lawsuit against Google, YouTube’s parent company.
The lawsuit accuses YouTube of demonetizing and restricting about 10 percent of PragerU’s videos. PragerU creates videos related to political, economic and philosophical topics. The organization was founded by conservative radio host Dennis Prager.
“YouTube continues to pretend to be politically neutral, while there is more evidence every day that they are targeting conservatives,” Craig Strazzeri, PragerU’s chief marketing officer, said in a statement ahead of the hearing. “Why else would they restrict access to 5 of our videos on the 10 Commandments?”
“Between Brown and Prager U, all these channels that are getting demonetized all have one thing in common. They all address LGBT issues and not in a negative way either. We don't go out there and we don’t say derogatory things.”
“If you look at YouTube’s advertiser-friendly guidelines, it doesn’t say anything about a biblical worldview,” Penkoski added. “It talks about demeaning comments, inciting hatred. The fact is that Dr. Brown is a scholar, a linguist and the last person that would ever do anything to incite violence. He gave a literal biblical message.”
On the other end of the political spectrum, YouTube has also come under fire for demonetizing videos posted by LGBT creators.
The platform is being sued by five sets of LGBT YouTube creators who allege that the platform unfairly demonetized their videos on grounds of being “inappropriate,” “shocking,” and “sexually explicit.”
The lawsuit claims that YouTube engaged in “discriminatory, anticompetitive, and unlawful conduct that harms a protected class of persons under California law.”
In response to the lawsuit, A YouTube spokesperson told Variety that its policies “have no notion of sexual orientation or gender identity and our systems do not restrict or demonetize videos based on these factors or the inclusion of terms like ‘gay’ or ‘transgender.’"