In a statement Wednesday night, YouTube said it was increasing security at all of its offices worldwide, and called the attack “deeply shocking and disturbing.” It did not address Aghdam’s allegations that newer policies had worked to deny her and other users revenue.
The Mountain View Police Department released a statement saying that Aghdam’s father informed them that his daughter was in the area after “she made a series of vegan videos for her channel on YouTube and that the company had recently done something to her videos that had caused her to become upset.”
According to a review of Aghdam’s online account history conducted by NBC News, she posted videos to four YouTube channels, with most of her work focused on veganism and animal rights. Other videos featured bizarre parodies or exercise videos set to strange music. Her four channels collectively earned more than 9.2 million views on YouTube since she joined the site in 2010.
Aghdam’s grievances with YouTube stemmed from changes made by the company to how it pays video creators for ads shown before or alongside their videos. Those changes, some of which occurred less than three months ago, included making it harder for video creators with smaller followings and view counts to make any money from their videos. Some in the YouTube community have criticized those changes.
Aghdam’s issues with YouTube appeared to have swelled last year. A file in an image folder on Aghdam’s personal website showed what purported to be an email she received that appeared to come from an account associated with YouTube’s legal support team in response to a complaint she levied on June 16, 2017. The picture is not displayed on Aghdam’s website, but was uploaded to an index folder containing all images hosted on the site.
In the email, which was added to her website June 27, 2017, Aghdam complains of “discrimination and hatred problems against me,” alleging a “huge drop in views” after she began uploading videos in Farsi and Turkish.
Aghdam appended a message in a red font atop a screenshot of her purported interaction with a YouTube support account.
“My email to youtube legal team. Subject is discrimination, but their response is about account activation!”
YouTube did not respond to requests for comment.
Aghdam’s family confirmed her YouTube usage to NBC News on Tuesday. In a brief phone interview, her father, Ismail Aghdam, said the platform had “stopped everything and now she has no income.”
Ismail Aghdam later told The San Jose Mercury News that his daughter “was angry” and “hated” YouTube.
Charts on the analytics site SocialBlade show that Aghdam suffered a substantial decline in viewers and subscribers on her main YouTube channel in June 2016. Aghdam opened several other YouTube accounts over the course of 2016 and 2017, all of which received noticeable drops in viewership within months.
It’s unclear how much money Aghdam was making for her views, but SocialBlade estimated that she was making $661 to $10,614 a year from her four YouTube accounts.
“On YouTube, a creator can estimate that they’ll get somewhere between 25 cents and $4 per 1,000 views. These data points change from time to time and are not an exact science, but generally hold true for most channels,” SocialBlade CEO Jason Urgo said.
A website registered in Aghdam’s name and a hub for her now-deleted YouTube accounts, NasimeSabz.com, prominently features several videos about YouTube demonetization under the heading “Youtube filtered my channels to keep them from getting views!”