“We aren’t going to tell you what the rules of the road are, but we’re going to hold you accountable to them anyway”

7 August 2019


[YouTube’s system] is like telling somebody when they get their driver’s license, “We aren’t going to tell you what the rules of the road are, but we’re going to hold you accountable to them anyway.”


Yes. Exactly. It’s a good analogy. (Thanks to DudeistPriest for that comment.) We have a few more.


Imagine this: you have a “normal” job in a coffee shop. You go to work every day. You get your paycheck every two weeks, for the hours you’ve worked for the last two weeks. But you have no idea how many of those hours you’ll actually get paid for. You might get paid for all of them, or none. Your boss gets to decide. You have no idea how your boss decides, or what criteria your boss uses to decide. If you don’t get paid for all your hours, you can ask why, but your boss just says, “Your work wasn’t really up to standard.” Your boss doesn’t tell you how to get your work up to standard in the future. Your boss tells you you can complain to HR if you don’t like it and gives you a phone number to call. But when you call the number there’s just a recording that says to send complaints to an email address. You send an email to the address and a few days later, or maybe a few weeks later, you get an email back that says either, “Sorry, your boss was right,” or “Your boss made a mistake. We’re sorry. We’ve changed your paycheck to ______.” There’s no more information in it. If your boss was right, there’s no explanation why. If your boss made a mistake, there’s no information about what it was, if steps have been taken to avoid it in the future, or even why your paycheck was changed to the amount it was changed to.


After a while, you talk to your colleagues and you realize you’re getting paid less than them, almost every paycheck. You start to wonder why. You wonder if maybe HR has a special flag on your personnel file or something, if it has something to do with you specifically, or something about the way you work. You email the mysterious address and ask if you can have a copy of your file, or if they can tell you anything about why your paycheck is so often less than your colleagues’, even when you work the same number of hours. After a week, you get a message back with one word in it:




You start to wonder about all of this and you dig out your employment contract, wondering if all this is really allowed. It turns out that the contract explicitly allows all of this. You signed it when you started working. You didn’t really read the whole contract, because you needed the money, but you definitely signed it. Or — wait. You read further, and you realize the contract also says your employer can change the contract any time, without notifying you. Their copy of the contract is the one that matters. The next time you show up to work, you have implicitly signed the new version. If you want to know if the contract has changed, you have to ask. You might have signed a contract that said all of this was allowed, or you might have signed some other version. It doesn’t matter any more, because by now you’ve accepted all the changes the company unilaterally made to the contract. It’s too late to object.


As you look at the contract, you realize that it also says that if your boss really doesn’t like your work, your boss can give you a strike. Generally you’ll get an explanation for a strike, but it’ll be something like, “Your work wasn’t up to standard.” You can ask about how to make sure it’s up to standard in the future, but you won’t get much of an answer. You can email the HR address to contest a strike, and you’ll get the “yes” or “no” answer back, but no explanation. If you get three strikes, you’re fired immediately without warning.


If you can live with all that, I have a contract for you to sign:


The YouTube Partner Program Contract.