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Social Justice YouTubers Are About To Get A Big Boost

The video platform hopes a few creators will demonstrate YouTube's power for social change “in a time when the internet is criticized for fueling division and distrust.”

Posted on September 22, 2016, at 7:01 a.m. ET

Today, YouTube announced a global initiative that endorses a select group of YouTube video creators who confront issues ranging from hate speech to xenophobia in their videos posted on the site. The program, called Creators for Change, will profile and promote six “ambassadors” — though there are more to come, the company says — and provide $1 million in grants and equipment to videographers aspiring to make work focused on positive change.

In a press release, the company said it wants the ambassador project to “demonstrate the incredible power YouTube has to generate a positive social impact,” especially “in a time when the internet is criticized for fueling division and distrust.”

The six ambassadors each focuses on different issues, including minority media representation, xenophobia, and religious tolerance. Each creates different types of videos, ranging from lifestyle vlogs to design theory lessons to comedy. They hail from an array of countries, and not all of them are even YouTube famous, with the exception of Australia’s Natalie Tran, also known as CommunityChannel, with 1.8 million subscribers, and Nilam Farooq of Germany, who has 1.1 million. The other ambassadors are Fakir Almobtaghi Abdelouahid of Belgium, known on his channel as Abdel en Vrai, Omar Hussein of Saudi Arabia, Barış Özcan of Turkey, and Humza Arshad of the United Kingdom, known by his channel name HumzaProductions.

YouTube will give its Creators for Change ambassadors production and equipment grants to fulfill a social impact project of their choice. The ambassadors will also work with YouTube to select the recipients of the $1 million in grants and production equipment.

Arshad said in a prepared statement, “I'm honoured Google and YouTube have asked me to be their global ambassador for their campaign against Islamophobia. Right now so many people are suffering because of faith-based hatred and are too afraid to go on about their daily lives.” He creates short comedic videos about his life as a Muslim man in the UK in the series Diary of a Bad Man.

View this video on YouTube

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HumzaProductions' Diary of a Bad Man

As part of the Creators for Change initiative, YouTube will create its own videos profiling each of the ambassadors. In his profile, Arshad focuses on the negative perception of Islam and how he uses comedy to work against it. “I thought I should bring that positive energy that Muslims bring to the table to the mainstream,” he said in the video. “I try my best to change the perception that people have of Muslims. We’re just like everyone else...just a bit hairier.”

View this video on YouTube

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Tran, who has been creating videos since 2006 about her travels, her life and the representations of Asian people in media, has accrued half a billion channel views. In prepared statement, she said that one of things she appreciated about YouTube “is how willing people are to start or engage in real conversations.”

Here she is her talking about Asian representation in media and how it's affected her life:

YouTube has struggled with a reputation for having some of the worst comment sections on the internet, though it has in recent years attempted to clean them up. When asked how it plans to moderate comments on Creator videos, a YouTube spokesperson told BuzzFeed News, “We are deeply troubled by reports of harassment on YouTube, and we work hard to address this issue through strict policies that prohibit misconduct.”

YouTube also plans to support more localized versions of Creators for Change in conjunction with NGOs and schools that will resemble its recent program in France that explored fraternité, French for “brotherhood,” in 140 videos featuring 700 participants. The company told BuzzFeed News it may name American ambassadors soon. The announcement of Creators for Change comes alongside a $2 million commitment from Google.org to nonprofits promoting inclusion and cross-cultural understanding.

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