YouTube reinstated a 14-year-old viral video (and source of a famous internet meme) that it initially said violated its policy on violent or graphic content after the man behind the video highlighted his struggles to get the video back online.
The video, which was uploaded in July 2007 by Paul Weedon (who was 16 when it was filmed), is only 11 seconds long. Weedon is talking directly to the camera for several seconds before he’s punched in the face by someone off-screen. Without missing a beat, Weedon—not missing a beat or changing the tone of his voice—immediately replied, “aw fuck, I can’t believe you’ve done this.”
To date, “I Can’t Believe You’ve Done This” received more than 12 million views and has entries on both Know Your Meme and Urban Dictionary. The video made Weedon internet famous, and earlier this year, he said he’s contemplating making a documentary about the video. In June, Weedon wrote an essay for Vice about going viral when YouTube was still relatively young, regretting selling the rights to the video to a now-defunct company, and watching it evolve well beyond its original form.
On Tuesday, Weedon revealed that after being on YouTube for more than 14 years, YouTube took down the video for violating its “violent or graphic content policy.
Weedon appealed the decision, and YouTube found that it still violated YouTube policy. Weedon called out YouTube its hypocrisy over not removing “all of the racist, homophobic and violent content” from its site while finding his video to be so violent that it violated policy; he also argues that “I can’t believe you’ve done this,” as a 14-year-old viral video and meme, is a part of internet history.
“It’s got nothing to do with YouTube trying to clean up their image as there’s far worse content out there that they’re clearly not going to do anything about,” Weedon explained to Motherboard. “I’m just sort of bewildered by the whole thing, but more than anything I’m just frustrated that a bunch of re-uploads of it are still allowed to stay online while mine has been taken down.”
When Weedon was able to talk to someone at YouTube (identified in the chats he posted with a “J”) and pointed out that his video has been re-uploaded many, many times, YouTube replied that it could only take down those videos if they were reported individually.
Weedon’s thread about his attempts to get his video reinstated went viral as people called out YouTube for the decision.
“YouTube was built on the shoulders of videos like ‘I can’t believe you’ve done this,’” Gene Park wrote. “This isn’t just a moderation nightmare, it’s YouTube not even recognizing it’s trashing it’s own history and legacy.”
A couple of people compared YouTube removing “I can’t believe you’ve done this” to the Louvre removing the Mona Lisa.
And another person compared the level of violence in Weedon’s video to the slapstick comedy of the Three Stooges.
By Thursday, one of YouTube’s official Twitter accounts replied to Weedon’s initial post about the video takedown. About two hours later, the video was reinstated, and YouTube noted that “this was a mistake on our end and your video is back up.”
“Upon review, we’ve reinstated this video,” YouTube said in a statement to Motherboard. “Due to the large volume of uploads, we sometimes make mistakes in removing content. When it’s brought to our attention that a video has been removed mistakenly, we act quickly to reinstate it.”
Weedon shared the update with his followers and thanked everyone who made a fuss about YouTube taking down the video.
“Can I just say a massive thanks to ALL OF YOU who’ve spoken up in support of this today,” he tweeted. “I’m beyond grateful that so many of you care so much about this ridiculous video. Thank you.”
Update 4:05pm CT, Sept. 30: In a comment sent to the Daily Dot, Weedon reiterated how grateful he was that people online were so supportive in helping him get the video back online. But he was also doubtful that YouTube would’ve reversed course or admitted to the error if he hadn’t posted about it on Twitter.
“It’s was interesting to see how YouTube responded to this after a day of being berated by people on Twitter,” he wrote. “I’m obviously really happy that they reinstated the video and acknowledged their mistake and I’m enormously grateful for the way the community rallied around me to get YouTube to overturn the decision, but if I hadn’t taken this to Twitter and made a song and dance about it, I honestly don’t think they’d have given their original decision any further thought.”