Before You Kill Your Viral Video … [GUEST POST]

Few things bother me more than someone deleting a video because it went viral. It happened with Rebecca Black’s original “Friday” upload due to a copyright dispute. It happened with Ted “Golden Voice” Williams, again due to a copyright dispute. It happened again yesterday with a video called “Student Mad at Teacher at Duncanville High”; the reasons are not yet clear.

In this video (mirrored here), a student named “Jeff” brashly interrupts a high school class to give a speech on his dissatisfaction with the teacher and his education. He decries the teacher’s alleged lack of motivation and lack of direct, passionate engagement. His argument roughly mirrors that of John Taylor Gatto in his book “Weapons Of Mass Instruction.” Gatto argues that compulsory education too often discourages initiative, passion and personal discovery.

“Student Mad at Teacher at Duncanville High” was uploaded on May 7, and by the afternoon of May 8 had been voted to the top of Reddit. After barely three hours of viral sharing it had more than 8,000 “likes” on YouTube. A rich comment thread exploded on Reddit. The words of “Jeff” provoked serious talk about education by people who are most likely silent in policy debates. Then, abruptly, the video was removed by the original uploader. The thousands who shared content they found to be organic and compelling got a giant slap in the face.

At this point, nobody knows why the original uploader deleted a highly-viral video. It’s even plausible that they were hacked. But if you find yourself in their situation, having a video go massively viral with all the resulting chaos and unclear consequences,  here are two things to think about before you kill your viral video.

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1) Viral videos can change the world. They can determine elections. They can destabilize governments. They can rock the boat among disaffected people and motivate them to challenge power. From the Arab Spring to Mitt Romney’s 47 percent, viral video is fast becoming a way by which the world conducts conversations of consequence.

2) The ends of viral videos often justify the means. In other words, viral success is often worth the imperfect conditions in which a video was made. Justin Bieber went viral singing copyrighted songs on YouTube that, strictly, he had no right to upload. So did Smosh — who are now no. 1 subscribed on YouTube. Ray William Johnson blew up doing comedy to video clips at a time when legally clearing those clips was not an exact science. If any of these people had gotten cold feet and said, “The way I am going viral is not perfect,” if they had said “I am going to delete any viral video that puts me out on a legal limb or a moral limb,” then millions of fans would be denied the fruits of their success.

“Student Mad at Teacher at Duncanville High” is still on the internet, but the original potential has been muted by someone seeking to put the cat back in the bag. I don’t know “Jeff.” I don’t know who filmed and/or uploaded the video. I’m not not ready to defend or celebrate their specific actions based on a short clip. My point is that this clip has undeniable meaning. It speaks to the masses. If you have something that speaks to the masses, no matter how crazy the initial whirlwind can seem —  think twice before you try to give it up.

About the author: 

Tay Zonday is a People’s Choice Award-nominated, YouTube Award-winning, Webby Award-winning singer-songwriter with more than 150 million video views on Youtube.

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