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YouTube and Facebook Are Losing Creators to Blockchain-Powered Rivals

Some say privacy concerns, censorship, and a coming ban on cryptocurrency ads are driving them away from the big names.
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Illustration: Joel Plosz for Bloomberg Businessweek
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Peter “Furious Pete” Czerwinski has close to 5 million YouTube followers, but they can’t see most of his new videos there. To get 46 of the 71 weightlifting and competitive-eating videos he’s posted in the past two months, fans have to use DTube. It looks a lot like YouTube, but video creators rely on donations from viewers instead of ad revenue, and the site’s moderators rarely try to censor potentially offensive material. Czerwinski, who made the switch two months ago, has said he felt his material could no longer get the circulation it deserved on YouTube. He didn’t respond to requests for comment.

While YouTube has had to start taking a tougher line on censoring offensive videos that advertisers don’t want to be associated with, a growing swath of creators have fled to sites such as DTube to avoid the constraints. Like other upstart sites, DTube runs on the blockchain network Steem, and users can pay creators and commenters in digital tokens. That’s another point of distinction with YouTube, as well as with Facebook and Twitter. All three advertising-driven sites are phasing out ads for cryptocurrencies, shielding themselves from potential legal liability if the ads are scams or the digital coins are eventually regulated as securities. Video creators with an interest in cryptocurrency say that’s also a factor driving them away from the big names. In the wake of Facebook’s data scandal, privacy is a third. YouTube didn’t respond to a request for comment for this story; Facebook referred to previous statements that the company is working to repair its reputation but hasn’t seen a significant drop in users.