YouTube ASMR Videos Are Under Attack

Ignorance and sexism is causing PayPal and YouTube moderators to unfairly target the accounts of ASMR creators

Elena Cresci
OneZero
Published in
7 min readNov 15, 2018

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Image: George Peters/Getty

At first, Lucy assumed she was getting one of those spam PayPal emails from someone trying to gain access to her account. It said her funds had been blocked for 180 days.

“I thought at the time, this is insane. Surely a company cannot do this,” she said.

When Lucy called PayPal, they said the decision was final and there was nothing they could do. Panicked, she did a quick Google search and found forums full of people who were permanently locked out of their PayPal accounts for various reasons. Lucy wondered if she would ever see the money in that account again.

Getting nowhere with customer support, she tweeted about it. And it turned out Lucy wasn’t alone. At least three other women had the same thing happen at around the same time, and they all had one thing in common: They all make ASMR videos.

What was going on?

This is a story about who gets to make money from the internet.

For the people who create the millions of whispering, tapping, and role-playing relaxation videos on YouTube, it’s a story in which many feel directly targeted because the platforms they use don’t understand the content they’re making.

To the uninitiated, autonomous sensory meridian response, or ASMR, is the feeling of tingles that can be triggered by a number of things. Most people find that softly spoken words do it. Others are triggered by tapping or the sound of someone eating. These videos are enormously popular, with views in the millions because people watch them over and over again.

A lot of ASMR YouTubers get into it because they experience the sensation and want to help others relax. Those with the biggest audiences have been able to make entire careers out of it.

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Elena Cresci
OneZero

Journalist who sews and punches things in her spare time. Not at the same time, though.