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YouTube’s Power of the Purse

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Facebook is a place where people get attention — but not typically where they make much money. YouTube is both.

The video site, owned by Google, shares the money it earns from its commercials with its video creators, making it a potentially lucrative place for people airing comedy shows, animal documentaries or beauty tutorials. Even though Facebook has a huge audience, it can be harder to make money there.

This gives YouTube the ability to shut off the money for people who spew vitriol or harassment. Exercising its power of the purse can be a significant way to assert control over people who use and abuse the site.

We’ve seen that deliberate designs of our internet spaces, such as rewarding posts that generate a high number of interactions, can help the most provocative and potentially harmful messages spread more widely. But YouTube shows that some constructions of online spaces can help combat the nastiness, too.

Let me explain this big difference between YouTube and Facebook and most other social media sites: If you watch a lot of YouTube, you know that commercials appear in most videos. Typically, Google sells those ads and splits the money with the person or organization behind the video.

Facebook sells more than $70 billion worth of ads each year, but it doesn’t typically share that money with the creators of the posts. (The fairness of this arrangement between Facebook and the people who make the stuff that is read and watched on the site is a sensitive subject, including for news organizations. Facebook does in limited cases split ad money or let Facebook and Instagram users find other ways to make money from their posts.)

YouTube’s widespread advertising revenue sharing gives it a form of punishment that Facebook doesn’t have.

To get people to stop harassing others, inciting violence or spreading false information, Facebook can delete offensive posts, apply warning labels to them or limit how often its computer system circulates them. Or it can kick people off Facebook entirely.

YouTube can do that, too — plus it has the power to turn off ads. Think of it like a middle ground between mild scolding (muting a post) and going nuclear (banning an account). This can be a powerful motivation for habitual offenders.

There is a way to turn a dumb home appliance into a smart one. It takes a few tools, and some imagination.

I’ll walk you through this process using a fan and some gadgets as an example:

You will need:

Here’s what to do:

  • On your smartphone, download the Kasa app.

  • Open the Kasa app and register for an account. Once logged in, tap the Smart Plug icon, then tap the + icon and then the Smart Plugs icon. Select your Smart Plug model.

  • Plug the Kasa smart plug into a power outlet. Plug your electric fan into the smart plug. The light on the plug will turn amber. In the Kasa app, follow the instructions to connect the plug to your Wi-Fi network.

  • In the Kasa app, select your Smart Plug. Then click the gear icon and click Name and Icon. Give the smart plug a friendly name like “Fan.”

  • Open the Amazon Alexa app. Tap the menu icon and select Skills & Games. Search for the TP-Link Kasa skill and enable it.

  • Standing near the Echo, say “Alexa, discover my devices.” Alexa should detect the device named Fan.

  • Now test the fan. Make sure the fan’s power switch is in the “on” position. With your Echo nearby, say “Alexa, turn on the fan.” Then say, “Alexa, turn off the fan.”

With this setup, you will have essentially created a remote-controlled smart fan. The Kasa app also includes the option to set a schedule for when the fan should turn on and off. Come winter, you can use this same setup with a space heater. Pretty neat, huh?

We encourage readers to check the wattage on their AC or heating unit before using any plug.


  • The great food delivery embiggening: Uber is combining with the food-delivery company Postmates, my Times colleagues reported Sunday and the companies confirmed Monday. Remember what I said last week: The food-delivery companies are merging to improve their dismal economics at the expense of restaurants, couriers, and diners like you and me.

  • What to do about Hong Kong now? Civil-liberties experts worry that a new law will let China’s government crack down on political expression and dissent in Hong Kong. This is creating a dilemma for internet companies. Facebook, Facebook-owned WhatsApp and the Telegram messaging app said that they would pause law enforcement requests for data about online users from Hong Kong authorities until there was an assessment of the human-rights implications of what some critics say is China’s takeover of Hong Kong, my colleague Paul Mozur reported.

  • Summer camp. Sort of. My colleague Nellie Bowles looks at the implications of summer camp conducted through computer screens because of the coronavirus. From mailing boxes of baking supplies to synchronized virtual soccer routines, camps have to be a lot more creative to keep kids’ attention.

Make way for ducklings, the sequel: Mama duck and her babies — with the help of a few traffic-stopping humans — safely cross the street to New York City’s Central Park.


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