As reported by The Daily Dot, Google slashed the cumulative view counts on YouTube channels belonging to Universal Music Group, Sony/BMG, and RCA Records by more than 2 billion views Tuesday, a drastic winter cleanup that may be aimed at shutting down black hat view count-building techniques employed by a community of rogue view count manipulators on the video-sharing site.
Universal’s channel is the one that took the biggest hit. According to figures compiled by the YouTube statistics analysts at SocialBlade, the record company’s YouTube channel lost more than 1 billion views from its preexisting tally of 7 billion views Tuesday.
Sony/BMG was the second largest sufferer, dropping more than 850 million views in one day, bringing its total number of views to a mere 2.3 million. RCA, which got off scot free by comparison, dipped 159 million views. Its tally now sits more modestly at 120 million views.
In addition, each label’s YouTube archives are now surprisingly thin. UMG, which had long held a heavy hand in YouTube operations, now only boasts five videos on its YouTube channel, none of which are actual songs—and none of which last more than 1:23.
Sony’s page, by comparison, is currently empty. The company did not respond to the Daily Dot’s request for comment.
Other notable channels affected include the ones belonging to Michael Jackson, Chris Brown, Beyoncé, and Avril Lavigne, among others. More than 500 prominent YouTube channels have been stripped of preexisting YouTube views in the past 30 days, something that causes concern when you consider that YouTube views counts, unlike subscriber statistics, are cumulative and cannot organically drop at any point throughout their existence.
Google’s takedown of these major music channels came on the same day that hundreds of YouTubers took to Google forums and their own YouTube channels to inform their peers that they’d been subject to a series of video takedowns for violations of YouTube’s Terms of Service (TOS). Some speculated that the widespread video takedowns were caused by a technical error, but YouTube confirmed that the users violated TOS item 4, Section H, which bans automated methods of inflating view counts.
“This was not a bug or a security breach. This was an enforcement of our viewcount policy,” wrote a Google representative on the forums.
The apparent crackdown on fake views became a major talking point Wednesday on Black Hat World, a forum where users trade tips about unethical search engine optimization tactics.