The YouTubers Union is demanding change. That's nothing new for Google





    Late last month, IG Metall, a more than 125-year-old German labor union with roots in fighting for metal workers, took on an unlikely new target: YouTube.

    In an odd-couple partnership, the trade union has joined hands with the YouTubers Union, a group of creators, to demand more insight into how the video-sharing service makes decisions about pulling down or demonetizing their work. The pair have created a new organization, FairTube, that is calling for Google-owned YouTube to set up an appeals process to be overseen by a third-party council. It's given YouTube until Aug. 23 to "enter into negotiations."

    The poster child for this effort is just as unexpected as the alliance itself. It's not a high-profile creator like Lilly Singh or MatPat. Jörg Sprave, FairTube's spokesman, isn't your typical YouTube influencer. He's a bald and sturdy 54-year-old German guy who makes videos about slingshots.

    "We're fighting for every YouTuber," Sprave said in an interview.

    Taking on Google, one of the most valuable and influential companies on the planet, is a long shot -- even with Sprave's impressive aim. YouTube, just one division in Google's sprawling internet empire, is the largest video platform in the world, welcoming more than 2 billion visitors a month. And Silicon Valley is famous for its individualistic approach to the world. Unions aren't really part of its DNA.

    Still, if there's any tech giant that's used to a discussion of organized labor, it's Google.

    Over the past several years, Google employees have protested projects and policies they view as unethical. Last year, workers spoke out against Google's work on Project Maven, a Pentagon initiative to use artificial intelligence for improving the analysis of drone footage. Roughly 4,000 Googlers signed a petition, and a handful resigned. Googlers have also protested Project Dragonfly, the company's effort to build a search product for China after it retreated from the market in 2010.

    The peak of Google activism came last November, when 20,000 Google workers from offices around the world walked out to protest how the search giant handled sexual assault allegations against Andy Rubin, the creator of the Android mobile operating system and a former senior executive. At the time, walkout organizers -- much like IG Metall -- sent a list of demands to Google leadership.

    YouTube says the company needs to invest in the success of creators, while also making sure marketers feel safe to advertise on the platform. "We take lots of feedback as we work to get this balance right," a spokeswoman said in a statement.


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