A disturbance in the queendom rattled America's reigning girl group this weekend. And though order has been restored, confusion lurks in the shadows of their throne.
Or, to put it less dramatically: YouTube removed Fifth Harmony's most popular music video without warning on Saturday, only to add the video back, views intact, less than a day later. So, what happened?
First, some context: Fifth Harmony—whose debut album, Reflection, dropped in January—are a girl group that formed during the second season of the American X Factor in 2012. They placed third but have since gone on to eclipse that season's winner, Tate Stevens.
In the pop-music sphere, Fifth Harmony—a.k.a. Dinah, Normani, Camila, Ally, and Lauren—are well known for their dedicated, near-militant fan army, the Harmonizers. Whenever they're nominated for a fan-voted award, the ladies can count on their stans to vote-refresh-vote-refresh their way to a 5H win.
That level of support on social media and music-streaming services helped the group's most recent single, "Worth It (ft. Kid Ink)" climb all the way to #14 on the Billboard Hot 100, and the music video for that song, released in March, cleared 100 million views on July 16.
Two days later, the "Worth It" video had disappeared from YouTube, leaving only a semi-comprehensible line of contract-speak about how the clip violated "YouTube's policy on repetitive, misleading, or inappropriate metadata" in its stead.
Fans led a Twitter campaign to bring back the video under the cumbersome, yet efficient, hashtag "#WeWantWorthItBackOnYouTube." By Sunday morning, "Worth It" was back on the site, 100 million views and all, but the question remains: What happened? Even 5H's management seemed in the dark upon learning that the clip had been removed.
To solve this mystery, let's begin by examining the language of that YouTube error message, starting with "metadata." According to YouTube's help page on "Spam, Deceptive Practices, and Scams," "metadata" refers to "any and all additional information provided on a video" like the title, description, tags, annotations, and thumbnail.
Now that we know what metadata is (are?), let's move on to the three other key terms in that violation message: "repetitive," "misleading," and "inappropriate."
Repetitive metadata does not refer to "fake views"—i.e., continually replaying a video in order to bump up its view count—as one ATRL commenter suggested. Repetitive metadata occurs when a YouTube user posts spammy videos and comments in the hopes that they'll convince other users to go to another URL. That's clearly not the case with Fifth Harmony's video.
On to the next term: "misleading." Misleading metadata refers to when a person tries to exploit YouTube's search engine by tagging and titling their video with inaccurate, more SEO-friendly terms. Like, if I posted a video called "ACTUAL FIFTH HARMONY VEVO WORTH IT HQ THIS IS REAL" that turned out to be a glorified link to download my mixtape—that would be a case of misleading metadata.
As for the "inappropriate" part of the policy violation, some commenters on Oh No They Didn't speculated that it had something to do with the fact that two Fifth Harmony members, Camila and Dinah, were underage at the time of filming "Worth It," which many found to be more sexually charged than previous efforts like "Sledgehammer" or "Bo$$." In the context of metadata, however, "inappropriate" refers to an explicit thumbnail or video title—neither of which "Worth It" possessed at the time of its removal.
Besides, if "Worth It" was 2 hot 4 YouTube in all of its pinstriped pantsuit glory, why hasn't Rihanna's "Bitch Better Have My Money" been removed yet? (brb, knocking on wood for even putting that thought into the universe.)
So, if Fifth Harmony's "Worth It" video wasn't removed for being repetitive, misleading, or inappropriate, why tf was it removed?
It looks like the whole thing might have just been an honest mistake. When reached for comment on the video's removal, a YouTube spokesperson told Fusion: "Occasionally, a video flagged by users or identified by our team is mistakenly taken down. When this is brought to our attention, we review the content and take appropriate action, including restoring videos or channels that had been removed."
Huh. So, that's it? A mistake? The video's removal has nothing to do with Jade Helm? This explanation doesn't really satisfy the truther inside, but I guess it makes the most sense.
Bad at filling out bios seeks same.