Google’s search algorithms are some of the best around when it comes to scanning content, and that goes for all their properties, from Photos to YouTube.

(Google Photos grouped a baby picture of my brother and his senior pics together as the same person, just based on facial recognition. That’s literally scary good.)

But the latest update to YouTube’s Restricted Search, itself an effort to combat hate-speech and other content that offended advertisers whose ads unwittingly appeared to be promoting such content, is causing a lot of problems for everyone from the WWE to independent wrestling promotions.

YouTube responded to those advertisers’ complaints by adding further tags to the default restricted search setting in effort to filter out objectionable content. That’s caused problems for people whose videos haven’t been caught up in that filter before, including a lot of wrestling content. Cageside Seats’ Marc Normandin delved into this topic Monday:

Wrestling content on YouTube is now considered “restricted” and can only be found through search if that mode is off. It doesn’t matter if the content is PG or graphic in nature, either: even WWE’s videos — those of a company that promotes itself as PG — don’t show up on YouTube in restricted mode…

That’s a massive deal for WWE’s social promotion; WWE counts more than 15 million YouTube subscribers. And it’s not just videos of actual wrestling; even a video on WWE’s channel of a wrestler unboxing an action figure got restricted. But WWE is a massive company that will likely be fine regardless of these policies. It’s the smaller, independent wrestling promotions that are likely to suffer most.

YouTube is perhaps the easiest way to build an online following for smaller promotions, as Normandin’s story shows with its piece on Beyond Wrestling:

“When Beyond Wrestling first started we were based in Ohio,” Beyond Wrestling’s owner, Drew Cordeiro, told Cageside Seats. “We ran studio tapings exclusively — no fans attended our events and the wrestlers stood ringside to support and critique their peers. We released the matches on YouTube for our wrestlers to take to other promoters to find work and they eventually gained so much momentum we decided to run a traditional pro wrestling live event with a paid audience.”

Now, obviously, just because content is restricted doesn’t mean it’s not still available. It’s also not entirely unreasonable that an early algorithm update might not quite be able to discern between, say, violent backyard wrestling (or a few notorious WWE incidents from the Attitude Era) and what is now, for the most part, harmless entertainment.
But it’s still a big deal for smaller companies, and could further raise the barrier to entry for the industry. Of course, they can push back, and if these rules are eventually relaxed, Cageside Seats speculates that WWE would likely be the biggest reason why:

And let’s not forget that WWE, with a YouTube subscription base of nearly 16 million and the ad revenue that comes with that, is going to be furious about the cut into their earnings as well — chances are good that if YouTube doesn’t fix this soon, WWE will get their lawyers involved, as both a revenue stream and a talent pipeline have been harmed by this change.

And maybe that’s true. Probably that’s true, even; WWE is probably more concerned with immediate ad revenue loss than it is smaller wrestling promotions. But if their number stay the same, while any potential competition suffers, it’s possible they don’t exactly drag their feet on getting things changed. (They could also seek to ensure that their videos are easily found without fixing this for anyone else.)

It’s a tough situation; the cards are stacked against smaller promotions as it is. This isn’t something they needed to worry about.

[Cageside Seats]

About Jay Rigdon

Jay is a columnist at Awful Announcing. He is not a strong swimmer. He is probably talking to a dog in a silly voice at this very moment.