Rocket Report Suspension: YouTube silences voices of SHS students – Chapters

This+logo+is+among+the+new+graphics+created+by+senior+producer+Aaron+Sears+and+his+crew+for+The+Rocket+Report+2.0%2C+which+is+now+streaming+on+a+new+youtube+channel+called%2C+Streetsboro+High+School+Broadcasting.

graphic by Aaron Sears

This logo is among the new graphics created by senior producer Aaron Sears and his crew for “The Rocket Report 2.0,” which is now streaming on a new youtube channel called, “Streetsboro High School Broadcasting.”

By Isabella Leonardi, Streetsboro High School

Chapter 1: The Disappearance Of The Rocket Report

Streetsboro High School’s Rocket Report is suspended for unknown reasons, leaving the crew to scramble. Confused, students dig to find reasoning for their suspension on YouTube guidelines. Without context on their suspension, the Rocket Report is left clueless with no solution of how to recover their channel.

Panic sparked when a group of Streetsboro High School students had their content banned from YouTube for “scam, spam and deception” just before President’s Day.

Senior Aaron Sears, the Rocket Report’s operations manager, expressed frustration over the incident.

“I think that we all are very mad, and rightly so,” he said. “It’s very easy to get frustrated when you can’t understand why something has happened and you’re suffering from it.”

The production, originally created by teacher Jim Boardwine in 2019, stemmed from the former morning announcements program run by now retired teacher Tom Fesemeyer.

The Rocket Report channel began mainly as a streaming service for sporting events, but as time progressed and editing skills improved, it became the streaming sensation it is today…or used to be, before YouTube deactivated it.

The work of The Rocket Report not only entertains SHS but also provides content for the rest of the community.  During the Boro Banter videos, The Rocket Report interacts with businesses in the community, younger students within the district, athletics, Thrive and Maplewood students.

The involvement of a variety of individuals helped to connect SHS and the rest of the community, which in return, enabled viewers to feel included in the content.

Senior Corey Teuton interviews teacher Bob Long for a Rocket Report segment. Others who have been interviewed for similar segments include local business owner Dean Caputo and state-qualifying wrestlers Donavon Paes and Cohen Klimak. (photo courtesy of The Rocket Report)

On February 17, The Rocket Report received an email from YouTube stating it had permanently banned the account. The email said the channel had violated community guidelines but it was entirely vague, leaving the staff confused.

After hours of research, the staff discovered many other small creator accounts experience the same issue and receive unclear reasoning. The crew had not read community guidelines in the past because they were inexperienced in uploading content to YouTube.

“I could be as advanced as I want in editing, but I was never really a big know-it-all when it came to YouTube,” Sears explained. “When it came to uploading videos and [setting] thumbnails, [that] was it.  That was my limit.”

The team rallied together to review old content to search for any signs of violation of community guidelines. Sears and adviser Jim Boardwine could only pinpoint one thing that could be considered copyright.

The content included copyrighted songs, but every song they had used was stock audio, which they had licensed. Every time they use one of these songs, they receive an automatic email that allows them to refute the copyright claims.

Sears admitted to being lazy about reacting to the emails and said he stopped manually refuting the claims because they came in automatically.

Senior Maysun Klimak, Matthew Burks and Hunter Hopperton are members of the Boro Banter. The Boro Banter is one of the favorite segments of the Rocket Report and has brought many viewers to the account. (Photo by Aspen Hanzak )

Sears explained the process of uploading a video with copyrighted audio. Before the video is published, YouTube analyzes the files to recognize any songs. When the program finds a song that is copyrighted, it gives the creator a “content ID strike,” meaning that YouTube is giving a warning to the creator, saying the song does not belong to them. The content ID strike has no penalties toward users’ accounts, except it demonetised the video.

The Rocket Report is not a monetized channel because they do not have enough subscribers, so it did not affect their channel.

After more research about how content ID strikes affect YouTube accounts, they discovered that account termination was not possible. YouTube cannot ban an account unless it has account strikes, which were not issued to the account.

YouTube carries a “three strikes you’re out” policy meaning if you violate community guidelines three times within 90 days, the account gets deactivated; or, if a severe misconduct occurs, the account would be taken down immediately.

The Rocket Report did not receive any word from YouTube about different acts of misconduct. . . so what severe misconduct occurred on the channel?

Chapter 2: YouTube Bots Determine Fate

Desperate, the team reaches out to YouTube through Twitter as a last resort.  Surprisingly, they receive a response containing a page to the YouTube guidelines the Rocket Report violated. YouTube’s Twitter Bot confirmed the ban of the channel with dissatisfactory reasoning.

Senior Aaron Sears working on the Rocket Report. Aaron has been working with the Rocket Report ever since the beginning and has helped them grow greatly. (Photo by Isabella Leonardi)

Adviser Jim Boardwine and his Rocket Report operations manager, senior Aaron Sears, only had 1,000 characters to explain the situation to YouTube, refute the claim and get their account back.

A few minutes after submitting their claim on Feb. 21, The Rocket Report received an email from YouTube stating the refute was not valid because it had to be made in a relatively short amount of time.

Because of the long weekend, Sears and Boardwine had had to do extensive research before refuting the claim, therefore, they could not submit the refute in what YouTube considered a “timely manner.”

The next day, The Rocket Report took the situation to Twitter. Sears tweeted, “@YouTube @YouTubeCreators, you just removed and denied TWICE the appeal of a public high school channel without notifying us of ANY wrongdoing beforehand after we spent the weekend researching trying to find what we did wrong. Our students’ hard work must be shared!”

YouTube replied to the tweet, requesting context on the situation so their team could review the appeal again. Sears was quick to reply this time with an 11-part strand of tweets explaining what had happened.

A behind the scenes photo of how The Rocket Report cuts and trims videos to fit into the episode

After a second review, YouTube responded to the tweet thread and made the final decision to stand by the account suspension for violating the “spam scam, and deceptive practices policy” and they included a link.  https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/2801973

Sears accessed the link to read about the guidelines, but once again, he could not understand how The Rocket Report violated the rules. Still confused, Sears replied to the final decision tweet and requested that YouTube specify how they had violated any guidelines and the response was. . . crickets.

Out of frustration after being patient and still receiving no reasoning, Sears made a final tweet about the situation: “Though we were NEVER notified of any misconduct and have yet to be told specifically what we have done, YouTube still holds its termination of our channel as valid.  While it’s hard to be a TV channel without a channel, we will find our way back to your screens one way or another.”

The crew had lost most of its content because they did not predict their account being taken down. They were left in the dark and were scrambling trying to figure out how to recover content they had worked so hard to produce. Although the team disagreed with YouTube’s final decision, they could not do anything to fight against it. Because they accepted all of the terms and conditions, they are practically powerless against YouTube.

Senior Hunter Hopperton films an interview between sophomore Gio Caputo and teacher Jeff Rainer April 5 for the April 8 edition of the show. (photo by Aspen Hanzak)

Sears expressed his anger toward YouTube’s decision. “I think [we] are all very mad, and rightly so. It’s very easy to get frustrated when you can’t understand why something has happened and you’re suffering from it.”

Boardwine said he wishes to know the reasoning behind the ban so the team can learn from this experience and fix their mistakes. After receiving emails and tweets from YouTube, he suspected Streetsboro’s case was most likely handled by a YouTube bot.

“The YouTube bots cannot keep us down,” he said.

The crew experienced difficulty in trying to reach a legitimate representative who was not a bot. When redirected to the YouTube support page, the team could not find the help they needed and were practically left in the dark.

Boardwine asked a valid question that needs to be answered: “You’ve watched the Rocket Report, do we fall into scam, spam, or deception?”

Chapter 3: The Rejuvenation and Redesign of The Rocket Report

The Rocket Report discovers the reason as to why they got ban without YouTube’s assistance. The team owns up to their unintentional wrongs and innovated creative ways to launch a brand-new channel. Though dealing with hardships throughout their journey, The Rocket Report successfully released their first episode.

Sophomore Geo Caputo interviewing history teacher Mr. Rainer who’s nickname is Rainman. The Boro Banter has been a huge part of the Rocket Report’s and has brought many viewers to the platform because of the positivity it brings to it’s viewers.

After a month of being banned, Sears found the answer to the frequently asked question: “Why?” During livestreams and videos, The Rocket Report played commercials and advertisements from sponsors, which would turn out to be a fatal mistake. YouTube has embedded advertisements known as preroll, midroll, and postroll ads that pull in revenue. Apparently, a creator is prohibited from including their own advertisements. According to YouTube’s policy, only problematic videos are removed if the policy is violated, but the Rocket Report account was still taken down.

Sears admitted fault. “We take responsibility for it even though it was unintentional,” he said.

Nearly all of the staff agreed that the situation was poorly handled. They searched for weeks for a concrete reason as to why they got banned because YouTube communicated inadequately.

Thanks to Sears, a conclusion was reached, but without him extensively searching for an answer, the crew would have unlikely reached a reason in a timely manner.

Sophomore Geo Caputo filming Senior Hunter Hopperton during his interviews. Hopperton is one of the main interviewers in the Boro Banter feature.

Sophomore editor Miranda Gerk expressed her frustration on the situation: “If you take someone off of YouTube, you should provide solid reasoning as to why you’ve taken them off.”

Because the Rocket Report is not an extracurricular but a class, student participants found their grades affected. Since students were unable to perform their roles and get their hours behind or in front of the camera, their grades suffered for a short period of time.

After gaining insight on why they were banned from YouTube, the crew abandoned their initial goal of recovering the old channel and focused on creating something bigger and better.

Host Caitlin Wegener said, “I told Aaron there is a way we can keep going and we made it happen.”

On March 8, an official Rocket Report 2.0 video teaser was posted by the show’s Twitter account. The teasers generated excitement not only in the high school, but in the community. After various released teasers, the awaited day came when a new episode and channel would finally be shared with the community.

On March 18, The Rocket Report started off fresh by airing a redesigned episode on a brand new YouTube channel. New segments, improved design, music and interviews were advertised and teased leading up to the launch. After a long break, the crew was excited to get back on track.

Senior Maysun Klimak was relieved to be back to work. “I feel like our month off was not [right],” he said. “We were dropping videos every two weeks all year long, and we [felt like we got] basically banned forever. It feels right to be back.”

A behind the scenes of members of the Rocket Report crew working on the computers in the Rocket Report film room

The unknown period of confusion was everything but a break to the Rocket Report. The crew utilized the time to enhance their editing, filming and design skills, while simultaneously creating innovative ideas for new segments to be featured.

Senior Jennifer Rebecchi, who edits footage, shared her opinion on the situation. “I think the revamp was what we needed,” she said. “It allowed us to look at it in a new perspective: How can we make it better? We were moving in a positive direction but the revamp allowed us to look at ourselves and decide what we should change and get rid of. What is going to make this the best possible thing it can be?”

Rebecchi’s words reflect how the crew’s focus shifted to adapt to the new changes. The period slowed production down, but increased the detail of work produced. The team no longer felt rushed to produce content, but instead focused on how they could improve the content.

Sears took advantage of the time by honing in on learning to improve his editing skills. He was able to redesign the intro and the virtual set, along with many other key components of the show.

“It was actually fun to create a new intro,” he said, “I felt grandiose in the beginning. We went out and shot drone footage and I edited the clips together to make a short video. We posted the video on our instagram and twitter as a cryptic teaser and it felt kind of fun because we were in a bad era for a long time. It was almost cinematic to release. You almost never see that from a high school channel, especially.”

Sears also explored his role as a social media manager during the break. With a fresh start, Sears felt more professional because he had the opportunity to create promotions for the new channel.

The break also allowed the team to reconvene, he added. The crew had “nonproductive” days where they would sit together and share deep discussions and tackle tougher topics. The opportunity to sit down and talk gave the crew the opportunity to bond, which ultimately improved the content quality.

Once the channel re-launched, Sears and the rest of the team expressed their gratitude over being involved in The Rocket Report.

“A few other schools have a program like this, period, let alone to the level that we do,” Sears said. “A part of that is the people that are involved in it are enthusiastic about it and we have the ‘know how’ on how to produce content like this. [W]e are blessed with the materials the district has provided us. We are grateful to have that; otherwise, we wouldn’t be able to produce such high quality content. Because we are passionate about what we do, it [definitely] shows in the content.”

The team is grateful for their following coming to the new channel, but since the channel is brand new, it does not have the same analytics as the old one. When searched on YouTube, the channel may not be the first result at the top of the page, because the amount of videos published and views are not high enough, which makes it difficult for the audience to find. The problem is minor and can soon be solved once the channel gains the same ground it once had.

Some members of the Rocket Report smiling for a big family photo

“You can see the difference, everything looks clean cut and fluid,” Sears said.

Despite various obstacles occurring,The Rocket Report rose like a phoenix out of the ashes, ready to produce more content and keep the community entertained.

“I’m incredibly proud of how united our team stayed while we were all in the dark,” said sophomore Gio Caputo. “Although we were going through uncertain times, we made sure to stay innovative and productive.”

With this new beginning, there are various opportunities for The Rocket Report to pursue, one being a new Rocket Report website with no current release date. The website reportedly is said to contain an explanation of the situation. Along with an explanation, the website will include a few past episodes that were recovered, new videos and much more.

This story was originally published on The Orbiter on April 27, 2022.