Google’s new “inactive account” policy won’t delete years of YouTube videos

Google is going to wipe out old accounts, but not ones with YouTube videos?

Google’s new inactive account policy already has people up in arms. The company announced on Tuesday that accounts that have gone unused for two years will be deleted, and a lot of people are asking what exactly this means for YouTube content. There are probably millions of videos out there from dead and inactive YouTube creators—would Google’s new data policy mean deleting nearly two decades of online history?

Google’s blog post yesterday certainly gave that impression, “If a Google Account has not been used or signed into for at least 2 years, we may delete the account and its contents—including content within Google Workspace (Gmail, Docs, Drive, Meet, Calendar), YouTube and Google Photos.” That policy would mean wiping out things like the first YouTube video, official YouTube accounts of former US presidents, and tons of content from retired YouTubers and music artists. That would be awful.

A day later, Google now says there will be no digital burning of Alexandria. YouTube’s creator liaison, Rene Ritchie, clarified on Twitter that Google has “no plans to delete accounts with YT videos.” 9to5Google heard the same statement from a Google spokesperson. That is great news, but that’s also very vague and runs contrary to what all of Google’s current documentation says, including the blog post. Can people keep a Google account alive forever with a single video? We’ve had an email out to Google since Tuesday night asking for some kind of formal policy regarding YouTube videos, but we haven’t heard anything yet. It seems like the company is still figuring this out.

It doesn’t make sense to delete old YouTube content, by the way. While inactive data for things like Gmail and Google Photos are nothing but a money pit, YouTube content is available to the public, and Google runs ads on those videos, so those videos make money. If there’s no creator to share revenue with, that’s even better! Culling old videos would not just damage YouTube as a platform, it would also hurt Google’s bottom line.

We’ll update this story if Google publishes a formal YouTube policy. Still, the inactive account policy doesn’t kick in until December 2023, so Google still has some time to figure this out.

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