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YouTube’s latest terms of service changes explained


By Kendra Barnett | Senior Reporter

November 23, 2021 | 5 min read

YouTube today unveiled a handful of changes to its terms and conditions that will take effect early next year. Most of the changes have been made with the intention of improving clarity surrounding the platform’s terms and policies for everyday users. Here’s what you need to know.

youtube screen illustration

YouTube has updated its terms of service once again

Just six months after updating its policies to forbid personal data collection via facial recognition and rolling out new revenue taxation rules, YouTube today announced it is updating its terms and conditions once again.

The changes revealed today, which will take effect on January 5 2022, are chiefly cosmetic changes that aim to help users better understand their rights and restrictions on the platform.

“We’re making some routine updates to our Terms of Service to make it easier for everyone to understand what they can expect as they use YouTube,” a company spokesperson said in a statement shared with The Drum. “This includes simplifying language where we can and providing some more detail in other areas to further increase transparency. There are no changes to the way our products work, how we collect or process data or anyone’s settings. These changes won’t affect the way people use YouTube.”

Key changes include the following:

  • Making service changes easier to understand: The video-sharing service has renamed its ‘Changes to the Service’ section to ‘Develop, Improve and Update the Service,’ which it says will “better reflect the content of the section.” Within the section, YouTube has reorganized and revised some content and issued an explanation for why it sometimes makes updates to the service. The company also outlined the advance notices it issues when changes that impact user access to the service are made – and users’ rights within such situations.

  • Consolidating information under the new section for service changes: In order to further improve the clarity of policies and user rights, YouTube has moved a number of clauses from various sections under the newly-named ‘Develop, Improve and Update the Service’ section. For one, the platform eliminated the section called ‘Terminations by YouTube for Service Changes’ – content from this section, which includes information about discontinuing YouTube services, will move to the new section. Some information about users’ ability to export content has also moved to this section from the ‘Account Suspension and Termination’ section. Additionally, a sentence detailing automatic updates from the ‘Downloadable Software’ section has made its way to the new section, alongside new language about when an automatic software update may be required.

  • Improving clarity around terms and changes to the agreement: YouTube is updating information about when it might adjust its terms of service in the future. The company will rename its ‘Modifying this Agreement’ section to ‘Changing this Agreement’ in order to “avoid any confusion with ‘Develop, Improve and Update the Service’ around modifying the service.” It will also polish the language within this section to make it more digestible for readers and outline some examples of when the company might make adjustments or updates to the terms and agreement.

  • Increasing transparency into its ‘strikes’ protocol: When YouTube users violate the company’s policies, they receive a warning. If it happens again, however, the user receives a ‘strike.’ YouTube penalizes repeat offenders on a three-strike system; if a user has received two strikes and once again violates community guidelines or policies, their third strike entails the user’s channel being permanently deleted from the platform. YouTube today announced it aims to “increase transparency” into this process. As such, it will now explicitly outline the Community Guidelines strikes process in the terms of service. The strike process itself will not change.

While these changes do little in the way of changing or impeding users’ day-to-day use of YouTube, they point to a larger trend of tech companies responding to user demands for greater transparency.

With consumer data privacy an especially hot topic among tech companies, publishers, advertisers and regulators are under more pressure than ever to provide users with explicit insight into how they operate. Considering that YouTube’s parent company Google is leading the charge with the depreciation of the third-party cookie and new proposals for more transparent, privacy-centric advertising frameworks, it’s no surprise that the video-sharing platform is making moves to improve user visibility into its protocols and policies.

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