YouTube, the world’s most popular video sharing site, has deleted billions of views for videos posted by major recording companies in a crackdown on ‘fake’ and ‘dead’ views. Universal, home of stars Rhianna and Justin Bieber, lost over one billion views alone on its videos. Music industry sources have called it a giant misunderstanding, blaming it on the migration of their videos across different channels.
The sudden move by the video-sharing giant left Universal with just five videos on the site – and Sony with just three and represents a huge commercial blow to all the music companies involved. According to statistics compiled by SocialBlade, Universal lost one billion views out of a total cumulative of seven billion and Sony’s cumulative view count dropped by 850 million. A number of other private artist ‘channels’ were also affected by the round up, including international sensation Beyoncé and Chris Brown.
With over one billion unique visitors and six billion hours of video viewed every month, YouTube, which has been owned by Google since 2006, has become the Web’s most important outlet for watching music videos. With the popularity of the site, the number of views that a music video attracts is commonly regarded as an unofficial worldwide ranking. View counts are widely used in the media to qualify the popularity of a video and can influence record sales.
YouTube’s move came after an audit of its viewing figures as a part of a broader effort to combat ‘black hat’ view count-building techniques. These techniques include a number of different unethical strategies that hackers employ to artificially inflate the numbers of views or likes on a YouTube video. With the growing importance of social networks, a small industry has cropped up online with aptly named companies such as YouLikeHits or AddMeFast selling fake Facebook ‘likes’ and YouTube views.
Artificial enhancement of a video’s statistics can prove very valuable commercially by increasing exposure on the site. The total number of views a user attracts from the videos uploaded on an account is also an important part of the equation the company uses to share its advertising revenue with partners.
“This was not a bug or a security breach. This was an enforcement of our viewcount policy,” a YouTube employee wrote on a forum. The company pointed out that automated methods of inflating view counts violates TOS item 4, Section H. Music executives contacted for comment said that the misunderstanding was due to the migration of videos to other channels.