Major recording companies have lost more than two billion video views on YouTube after the video sharing website cracked down on alleged fake views.
The biggest hit was taken by Universal, home of Rihanna, Nicki Minaj and Justin Bieber, which lost more than one billion views from its total of seven billion.
Sony BMG was second hardest hit, with the label behind such stars as Alicia Keys, Rita Ora and Labrinth losing more than 850million views in a single day.
The dramatic falls, highlighted by figures compiled by YouTube statistics analysts at SocialBlade, came after YouTube conducted an audit of its viewing figures aimed at combating black hat view count-building techniques.
This is when hackers artificially build up the numbers of views or likes on a YouTube video – enabling them to make clips appear far more popular than they really are and increase their exposure on the site.
The Daily Dot reported how many of the channels affected – which also include ones belonging to Michael Jackson, Chris Brown and Beyonce, among others – had also had many videos deleted.
Universal, which previously had dozens of clips on its YouTube channel, has had its offering slashed to just five – none of which are music videos or last more than about a minute and a half.
Sony’s page was also left practically bare following the cull, with just three videos left.
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The mass takedowns came the same day that hundreds of the site’s users flooded forums to complain they had suffered a series of video deletions for violations of YouTube’s terms of service.
Many speculated they fallen victim to a technical error, but YouTube replied to confirm that the users had been sanctioned for violating TOS item 4, Section H, which bans artificially inflating view counts.
‘This was not a bug or a security breach. This was an enforcement of our viewcount policy,’ YouTube announced on the forum, where it included a link to the site’s policy on ‘viewcount gaming’.
According to the Daily Dot, the apparent crackdown last week was widely discussed on the Black Hat World forum, where visitors exchange advice on unethical search engine optimisation tactics.
In one thread, the first post spoke of a ‘friend’ who ‘sells likes’ who had been told by four different customers that their videos were deleted due to violations of YouTube’s terms of service.
Universal acknowledged its drop in views, but told the Daily Dot its channel had been mostly dormant since it shifted its focus to Vevo, which it founded in 2009 together with Sony Music, Abu Dhabi Media Company, and E1 Entertainment.
Commenters on the Sony YouTube channel gloated over the major record labels’ apparent comeuppance.
User Lattentreffer posted on SonymusicSME: ‘Pretty much f*** you, sonymusic…. Hahahaha. you got the axe on your black hat viewcount manipulating….!’