On June 9, Kelly Van Achte, known online as Act Man, tweeted that his YouTube channel was being demolished. The cause wasn’t the months-long bitter feud between him and review channel QuantumTV, which saw Van Achte call the reviewer over harassment of critics and his alleged past use of homophobic slurs. Rather, it was a follow-up to a tweet that Van Achte claimed was satire, one that threatened to “swindle the families of YouTube employees and creators,” according to the tweet Youtube on Twitter.
The channel set up by Van Achte, with over 1.5 million subscribers since 2013, can no longer generate any income with Google AdSense. It sparked a massive online backlash, with #JusticeforActMan garnering over 100,000 tweets on Twitter and multiple creators with millions of subscribers in just one week.
In her eyes, and in the eyes of Van Achte in interviews with Passionfruit, YouTube has failed to punish bad actors in its community, instead hoisting the algorithmic guillotine over a channel to expose a perceived injustice.
“I hope that internal investigations will be carried out to find out why all this happened and how all these things could have been overlooked,” said Van Achte. “Why was I targeted and not the anime villain?”
Copyright strike leads to backlash against QuantumTV
In mid-March, YouTuber QuantumTV, which has around 60,000 subscribers, released two deleted videos about the video game elden ring. He found the title “too difficult” and argued that it was unintuitive and confusing for him. In a follow-up video responding to criticism, he said those who disagree with him should “kill themselves.” Other YouTubers soon began poking fun at the review and reaction, mocking QuantumTV for failing to understand that the game’s difficulty curve made it so successful, selling over 13 million copies in just a few months.
One of those YouTubers was Mischief, a 17-year-old British content creator who only had around 2,000 subscribers. QuantumTV responded to Mischief’s community post in a now-deleted comment, writing that he would issue a “takedown” for using his “likeness in your thumbnail.” QuantumTV doubled down in a now-deleted video defending his actions and claiming Mischief’s videos weren’t “fair use,” which drew the attention of bigger creators.
A Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) strike on YouTube allows anyone who feels their content is being violated to have it removed. When used properly, it allows video or music owners to remove content that infringes their copyright and does not fall under fair use. But the system can also be abused, allowing people to silence criticism and possibly remove videos. A YouTuber can appeal, but risks YouTube siding with the original striker or ending up in a lawsuit. Three copyright strikes and your channel will be terminated, so the stakes are high.
“Copyright strikes are about the worst thing you can do to another content creator, aside from berating them and harassing their families,” said Van Achte. “When it comes to individual content creators, YouTube fully allows them to DMCA-armed.”
That caught the attention of other YouTubers, like Richard Masucci, who runs a tech channel Review Tech USA with 1 million subscribers, who published three videos on the subject from March 15-19. Those videos drew hundreds of thousands of views, and the spotlight shone brightly on QuantumTV, whose previous homophobic attitudes surfaced amid the controversy. Now-deleted 2018 tweets reading “gay marriage must end” and replying “why weren’t you a pulse victim smh” and referring to the 2016 shooting at Pulse Night Club in Orlando, Fla. began, media to be shared on social networks.
QuantumTV then made more videos defending his actions and attacking his critics, calling Masucci a “pedophile” and claiming his social media accounts were “hacked” when these offensive posts were made.
That Act Man intervenes
On April 10th, Van Achte gave his own response to the full saga, which currently sits at 1.9 million views. He went through many of QuantumTV’s controversial statements and tweets and believed that this behavior, on top of the rampant copyright strikes, deserved some sort of punishment or ban from YouTube. In response, QuantumTV has made a copyright claim, although YouTube denies it.
That video sparked another round of internet comments from Van Achte on April 23, posting an hour-long look at Quantum’s posts and history, urging YouTube to remove him from the platform, which has since racked up over 2 million views became. After this video went live, Van Achte tweeted this to QuantumTV had called his mother, which Quantum confirmed in its own follow-up video. Van Achte also claimed that Quantum threatened to dox his family.
About a month later, on May 31, Van Achte tweeted a response from YouTube that said the platform had failed to determine that QuantumTV “violated our community guidelines” and that the “other creator’s copyright suggestions are valid.” The next day, Van Achte posted another video addressing the history of QuantumTV and YouTube’s response, which was removed on June 7 for “nudity and sexual content.” Van Achte confirmed to Passionfruit that the cause was a single image of cucumber in Quantum’s mouth.
“I feel like someone at YouTube wanted to find a reason to remove the video and they just picked the funniest one,” said Van Achte.
On June 8, Van Achte tweeted that his entire channel had been demonstrated. Van Achte told Passionfruit that his affiliate manager at YouTube broke the news to him the day before and that he makes “90 percent” of his income from advertising.
Now that Van Achte’s channel can’t make any money, he feels “demoralized” about creating content.
“The idea of someone being able to push the livelihood destruction button on YouTube at will is a very scary thought for me and everyone else,” said Van Achte. “You could make an edgy joke and then it all falls apart for something so simple and relatively innocuous.”
Still, the positive attitude towards Van Achte has allowed him to remain steadfast, even if he’s unsure of what his next project will be.
“I’m very honored by the support and the reactions and I’m so happy about it all,” said Van Achte. “Karma has come back to me in a good way.”
When asked to comment, a YouTube spokesperson pointed it out The original tweet from YouTube and declined to answer any further questions.
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