The world’s biggest recording companies have been stripped of two billion YouTube hits after the website cracked down on alleged ‘fake viewers’.
Universal, home of Rihanna, Nicki Minaj and Justin Bieber, lost a total of one billion views in the video site’s biggest ever crackdown on artificially inflated figures.
Sony was second hardest hit, with the label behind such stars as Alicia Keys, Rita Ora and Labrinth losing more than 850million views in a single day.
The unprecedented move left Universal with just five videos on the site – none of which were music – and Sony with just three.
‘This was not a bug or a security breach. This was an enforcement of our viewcount policy,’ YouTube announced.
It marks a huge blow to all the artists involved as YouTube is now the web’s most important outlet for music videos
Over four billion hours of video are watched by over 800million unique visitors to the site each month.
The dramatic falls, highlighted by figures compiled by YouTube statistics analysts at SocialBlade, came after YouTube conducted an audit of its viewing figures aimed at combating black hat view count-building techniques.
This is when hackers artificially build up the numbers of views or likes on a YouTube video – enabling them to make clips appear far more popular than they really are and increase their exposure on the site.
The number of views attracted on YouTube are these days regarded as an unofficial worldwide popular music chart, and any suggestion that major labels are engaging in underhand tactics to increase their numbers could threaten the credibility of their artists.
YouTube viewer figures are doubly valuable to channel owners since it is also the primary way in which the site works out how to share its advertising revenue with partners.