Saturday, June 25

The class struggle reaches the big digital platforms

  • Content creators on YouTube, Instagram, TikTok or Twitch denounce their lack of power against companies that do not consider them workers

  • UGT follows in the footsteps of Germany and launches an initiative to make the protest visible and press for better working conditions

Every minute 500 hours of content are published in Youtube, two million views are generated in Twitch, 695,000 ‘stories’ are shared in Instagram Y TikTok downloaded 2,407 times. The irruption of digital platforms It has not only transformed entertainment, but it has illuminated what is already known as the creator economy. In recent years, up to 50 million people around the world have used these spaces to share all kinds of contents and create a community of followers. Disseminating has become his profession, but on platforms that is an occupation without any rights.

This emerging industry of the new digital entertainment does not stop growing and this year will exceed 104,000 million dollars, according to a study from Influence Marketing Hub. However, its flourishing has also exposed conflicts due to the asymmetry of power that exists in the platforms and because of their lack of regulation. Currently, only two of the 50 million content creators in the world are professionals, according to SignalFire. Although the platform provides the main tool (the channel) and sets the conditions for issuance and payment, those who spend many hours of their day creating and sharing videos are not recognized as workers, but as collaborators.

The creators use YouTube, Twitch or TikTok tools to try to capture the attention of the audience and, in return, the platforms extract their data and decide how much they can charge for that content and under what conditions, without those collaborators being able to negotiate the rates , neither are they aware exactly why they enter what they enter, nor do they have the certainty that at any time the platforms decide to unilaterally change these conditions. “We need the platform more than it needs us, we must be clear that it is an unequal relationship where we are the weakest part,” he explains. Roc Massagué, which under the pseudonym ‘Outconsumer‘accumulates 792,000 subscribers on Youtube Y over 112,000 on Twitch.

UGT seeks to mediate

This structural problem is what has led to UGT to boost the ‘Content creators network‘, an initiative to group and make visible the protests of’ youtubers’, ‘tiktokers’ and’ streamers’ and try to open direct communication channels with the platforms. “If you are not a Rubius you need an intermediary, because if you have a problem you do not exist for the platforms”, comments the content creator Marta Llanos (8,940 subscribers on Youtube).

First to demand stability and transparency in the conditions. And, in the future, to be able to negotiate better rates. “In the 19th century, the first demands of the unions focused on the fact that companies will not literally change their pay per piece overnight. Then they already negotiated wages, but the first thing was to guarantee that a worker had security how much I was going to earn ”, he points out Adrián Todolí, Professor of Labor Law at the University of Valencia.

Although interest in creators’ economy has increased with its’ boom ‘during the pandemic, for years they have denounced the lack of transparency of creators. algorithms of recommendation (which determine the order of appearance of the contents) and their defenselessness before the unilateral decisions of the platforms. “The digital world places us in a strange situation and we just want a more fluid and clear relationship,” explained the scientific communicator Mauricio-José Schwarz (113,000 subscribers) during the presentation of this “collective partner”. That awareness emerged in 2016, when YouTube changed its policies and withdrew the monetization of all kinds of videos that are not very comfortable for advertisers. Overnight, many lost much of their income. In Germany, the ‘youtubers’ reacted by organizing.

However, that did not prosper in Spain. “As it affects us all differently, it is difficult for us to think collectively and have a union mentality. The platform rewards individualism and it is easy to believe that we have succeeded because we are the host and we do not need anyone ”, regrets Massagué, who applauds the management that the UGT can do in terms of employment advice, mental health and pressure for legislators.

If you don’t publish you don’t exist

Although the most famous creators have a certain margin to negotiate special treatment, the vast majority do not have any decision-making powers. Even Ibai (7.52 million subscribers) they blocked the channel for a week for sharing a video in which a child fell off a bike when he understood that this was “child violence.” With no margin to demand or guarantee a better economic return, creators are exposed to a digital market which is a kind of deregulated casino with no labor rights. The algorithm of these platforms rewards the constant publication of content, so whoever aspires to obtain some income You will have to invest a large part of your life on the platform. All this without guaranteeing salary.

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This makes the system incentivize a logic in which not publishing is not existing, which accelerates a dizzying rate of competitiveness to attract the attention of others. The more people fight over the cake, the fewer the crumbs to distribute. And that degenerates into harmful consequences on creators. “It is an exploitative system because it does not set limits,” laments Massagué. “And that someone makes a lot of money with it does not mean that they are not paying a high price in health and life.” The Rubius, for example, he had to temporarily abandon his YouTube channel (40.2 million subscribers) for anxiety.

Beyond what the UGT proposal can achieve, labor turmoil will continue to grow in this platform capitalism. “It is a sector that will generate more and more income”, explains Todolí, “and the demands of the creators will also increase”.

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