A mysterious ‘glitch’ shut down accounts run by several of YouTube’s biggest stars last night, as channels with millions of subscribers were suddenly booted offline without explanation.
The Google-owned site told Metro.co.uk that the outage was caused by an update to its ‘community guidelines enforcement system’, but this explanation has not been entirely accepted by the community
The accounts affected by the problem had all their videos removed and the front page of their account replaced with a banner which said: ‘This account has been terminated for violating YouTube’s community guidelines.’
Miley Cyrus‘ YouTube channel was reportedly closed, as well accounts run by the American talkshow host Conan O’Brien and the gaming vlogger IDubbbz.
The popular and influential online news channel DramaAlert was also shuttered, prompting its host KeemStar to step away from his family’s Thanksgiving drinks and get to work trying to fix the problem.
KeemStar initially suggested he and other creators were ‘wrongfully suspended’ due to ‘some kind of glitch’.
Later on, he posted a brief video to Twitter in which he blamed the issue on a new hacking group that’s an offshoot of Lizard Squad.
‘Lizard Squad have found some exploit and are shutting down channels,’ he said.
‘I talked to them and they are restoring the shit. Everyone should get their channels back.’
Keemstar later told us that he had spoken to the hackers personally and watched as they restored an affected account – which is a strong indicator they were involved in the outage.
He also said the fact that such prominent YouTubers were affected indicated that the problem was not caused by a random tech issue.
Hackers linked to Lizard Squad also posted several tweets which appear to hint they were behind the glitch, which you can see below.
Taking down youtubers is like stealing candy from a baby.
— Breach God (@BreachGod) November 24, 2017
The fault also prompted immediate claims that the Google-owned site was planning a censorship drive aimed at wiping out YouTubers whose political stance was deemed unacceptable.
YouTube recently introduced a scheme it calls ‘tougher treatment’ which puts videos deemed controversial, but not illegal, into a ‘limited state’ which effectively makes it harder for them to be viewed and shared by a large audience.
Right wingers fear this scheme is part of a wider Silicon Valley drive to censor people who deviate from left-wing ideology – although YouTube insiders hotly deny these claims and insist they want the site to be as neutral as possible.
However, YouTube’s explanation is unlikely to quell paranoid people’s fears.
Yesterday evening an official YouTube account blamed the problem on a ‘technical error’ and vowed to fix it immediately.
But it later provided us with a statement which suggested the problem was caused by a shadowy ‘enforcement’ mechanism.
‘As we were working through changes in our Community Guidelines enforcement systems we mistakenly suspended several channels.
‘Our teams worked quickly to reinstate these channels and most were reinstated within an hour. We’re sorry for any confusion this caused.’
Here’s what various people have been saying about the glitch on Twitter:
Update: My youtube contact is contacting the emergency off hours team. My best guess before I hear back is the channel terminations are a mistake and not intended. The channels affected are too random. Idubbbztv AND Conan O’Brien? That seems like a mistake, not a statement.
— Philip DeFranco (@PhillyD) November 24, 2017
It looks like you and Team Coco got hit as well. I’m contacting yt to find out if this is a glitch or what. The inclusion of Conan makes me think it’s a glitch or bad algorithm change.
— Philip DeFranco (@PhillyD) November 24, 2017
Looks like my @Youtube account was terminated. I was given no reason why, and sent no email. I need my fans to help me contact them with as much vigor as possible- might be a glitch.
— Styxhexenhammer666 (@Styx666Official) November 24, 2017
Ok Taters. I think this is a glitch.
It's Thanksgiving night, most of youtube staff is away with family and all of a sudden Styx, Conan O'brien, Idubbz, Keemstar and Miley Cyrus youtube channels go down
Youtube has either been hacked or there's a glitch. This doesn't sound right.
— Tree of Logic (@Tree_of_Logic) November 24, 2017
So along with idubbbz and Keemstar’s channels, Conan got terminated as well, which leads people to believe its a glitch
THATS ONE HELL OF A GLITCH, YOUTUBE
— Colin (@IntroSpecktive) November 24, 2017
A similar issue hit a separate service run by Google, owners of YouTube, a few weeks ago.
A bug stopped people from accessing documents stored on Google Docs and incorrectly told users their files contravened the tech giant’s terms of service.
In a statement released at the time, Google said: ‘This morning, we made a code push that incorrectly flagged a small percentage of Google Docs as abusive, which caused those documents to be automatically blocked.
‘A fix is in place and all users should have full access to their docs. Protecting users from viruses, malware, and other abusive content is central to user safety. We apologize for the disruption and will put processes in place to prevent this from happening again.’
We have written to YouTube for comment and will update this article when it replies.