Algorithms allow for much of the modern internet to function, but they can also come with tragic consequences.
It has emerged that Nasim Aghdam, the woman who went on a shooting spree at YouTube’s office before taking her own life, was a YouTube content creator angry with the company’s policies. Yesterday, Aghdam had entered YouTube’s San Bruno office and shot 4 people, one of whom is said to be in critical condition. She had later turned her gun on herself.
While the authorities are still to make a statement on her motives, her personal website shows her struggles as a YouTuber, with a growing disenchantment with the platform’s policies. “My revenue for 300,000 views was $0.1?” she’d angrily posted. “This video got age restricted after new close-minded youtube employees, got control of my farsi youtube channel last year 2016 & began filtering my videos to reduce views & suppress & discaurage me from making videos!,” she’d alleged.
Aghdam appeared to be a serial YouTuber, running 4 separate YouTube channels. She wasn’t particularly popular — her channels, which have since been taken down, had between 4000-5000 subscribers, and she talked about several issues, including taking up veganism. But she seemed to be particularly unhappy with what she called YouTube’s censorship. “There is no free speech in the real world and you will be suppressed for telling the truth that is not supported by the system. Videos of targeted users are filtered and merely relegated so that people can hardly see their videos,” she’s said.
She also seemed worried about how YouTube was running as a dictatorship, and turning people to “programmed robots”. “Be aware! Dictatorship exists in all countries but with different tactics! They only care for personal and short-term profits and do anything to reach their goals even by fooling simple-minded people, hiding the truth, manipulating science and everything, putting public mental and physical health at risk, abusing non-human animals, polluting the environment, destroying family values, promoting materialism and sexual degeneration in the name of freedom and turning people into programmed robots!,” she’d written on her site.
It appears that her plan to attack the YouTube office was premeditated. Her father, Ismail Aghdam, had informed the police the day before the shooting of his “daughter’s violent anger towards YouTube”, saying he was concerned about her grievances with the online video platform. Her father said she “hated” YouTube after it stopped paying her for videos.The night before the shooting, local police had found her sleeping in her car, 30 miles southeast of YouTube’s headquarters in San Bruno.
Aghdam wasn’t the only YouTuber concerned with the platform’s policies — over the last few months, YouTube had changed its monetization policies that allowed only large content creators to make money from the platform. In an event popular YouTubers had dubbed the adocalypse, many content creators had seen their earning plummet after YouTube had changed its algorithms. YouTube had also been criticized for what many thought were arbitrary video demonetization rules, under which it didn’t allow ads to run on certain kinds of videos, thus preventing their creators from making money off them.
There had been growing discontent with YouTube among video creators, but nobody could’ve imagined it would culminate in a shooting on its campus by a disgruntled YouTuber.