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Does it make sense to create a union for YouTube?

At the beginning of December, UGT launched a video to publicize the Red de Creadores initiative, a trade union arm that intends to initiate a debate on the conditions of creators in the different social networks. Shortly after, they also organized two days of meeting with their representatives, broadcast on streaming . For more than seven hours, problems such as the conditions of use were exposed (although the rules of social networks are not, for the moment, above the territorial legislation), and in others a bit ethereal (complaining of not being able to deduct the time spent in being documented, for example).

20 years ago the great value of the internet was, apparently, the disappearance of intermediaries. In January 2001 Google was in the 29th position of the most popular search engines. In 2021 we don't say “search engine”, we say “Google”. A network like Twitter suspends the account of a head of state as a result of an unprecedented attack on democracy in a distant January 2021. The utopian anarchy that the networks offered us has given way to an attempt at anarcho-capitalism that some big technology companies want to impose tacitly.

The new extreme right has wanted to equate social networks with the media and legislate them as such. But a social network is not a means of communication. Let's take any YouTube video: audiovisual content that is generated without anyone requesting it, that is hosted for free on a platform that offers millions of other videos, and that, if certain conditions are met, is monetized. These conditions include that certain topics are not touched (vaccines, for example), and that is why youtubers such as Lobo Estepario or Óliver Ibáñez cannot live off their videos unless they resort to crowdfunding, an option they took , for example, UTBH (A Straight White Uncle) and Alvise Pérez. In exchange for a modest amount (or not) per month, subscribers can access various perks such as proposing topics, receiving voice audios from the guru in question, or accessing “how-to” videos. In the two cases mentioned, the call for contributions is made in pursuit of militancy (anti-feminist and anti-communist respectively), but in others the appeal is made to sisterhood or the right to a fair salary. But what is fair?

The young Rose, known as Ghoulbabyghoul in Tik Tok, where has more than 3,000 followers, it is recorded with his mobile phone on Madrid's Gran Vía, on September 24, 2020. Eduardo Parra (Europa Press)

The UGT Creators Platform has asked that the youtubers know what algorithms make them be in one position or another, in order to organize the accounts of the month and know when they will have 800 visits and when will they have 8,000.

The visible faces of this union initiative are far from making the numbers even of niche youtubers such as Patri Jordán (nutrition and sports), Iván Vázquez (gardening) or SMDani (religion). The most powerful Spanish youtubers have left YouTube and Spain much more concerned about a tax burden (it reaches 40% of their income) than about a democratic distribution of visits than to they would not have favored them. In addition, the youtubers of success are now streamers , as a result of a drastic and not accidental drop in visits to their videos, with the consequent reflection in their income.

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100 years ago the commercial battle for the birth of cinema had already taken place. A business model – which was not seen as such at first – already had large production companies (Universal Pictures, United Artist and Paramount Pictures were well established) and legislation. The battle over screenwriters' intellectual property rights, for example, would come decades later. The configuration of the work of content creator as an independent figure within each legislative framework will come because it is inevitable: it has started as entertainment, but there are already professionals of it. The conditions to stay are much more enslaved than it seems (permanent dedication and cutting ties, practically, with anyone who does not belong to the community youtuber , and this is something that everyone who has had a friend with a fairly popular channel, you know), and the pay is, of course, low. This first attack on the status quo has been with blank bullets, but we must not lose sight of it.

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