Censorship is not my thing.
I’ve been using Skillshare as a secondary marketplace for my online courses since 2019. The main one is Udemy.
The collaboration had its ups and downs, the downs mainly being linked to the incredibly slow and often unhelpful Teacher Support department and mostly nonsensical content moderation process, but it worked for what I needed from it — to offer an option for users who already had a Skillshare account or those who only wanted to access my classes for a limited amount of time, an alternative to Udemy.
The three years in which I’ve used Skillshare as a teacher were rather uneventful.
However, things started to change on the platform rather dramatically at the beginning of 2022.
Every couple of months or so Skillshare would announce to teachers some radical changes they’ve made on the platform. I won’t detail the changes to their terms in this article but I will mention that most of them meant some sort of significant change linked to content moderation and/or the payment process.
Many classes were removed from the platform and with every change, teachers would see a significant pay cut — the last change meant an average change in payments of about 60%.
Now, my courses made it through all of those changes last year and I did not care all that much about the payments from Skillshare in terms of amounts.
I did consider the continuous, one-sided radical changes to be abusive though, so the idea of leaving the platform did cross my mind a few times in 2022. However, I decided to stay and wait to see what comes next.
So, my classes were doing just fine on the platform at the beginning of 2023. Or so I thought…
On January 3rd this year, I received the following e-mail from Skillshare:
Enrique here, I work on the Content Moderation Team at Skillshare.
At Skillshare our Class guidelines are updated regularly to ensure all content on the platform fosters a creative and safe learning environment. I’m writing to let you know that after reviewing your account we have discovered that a class you’ve previously published no longer adhere to our Class Guidelines — http://skl.sh/1GHoHIP.
How To Identify Fake News and Fight Misinformation | Critical Thinking Skills”
I thought, “Okay. Out of the blue but it’s a private company, they can remove content if they don’t want it on the platform.”
Yet, I was curious about the reason behind closing my class.
I read on…
“While we understand this may not have been your intention to violate our guidelines, [..]”
Yeah, not my intention to infringe on guidelines you came up with a year after the publication of my class… Go figure… Not to mention you reviewed it…
“[..] Skillshare does not permit classes about religion, spirituality, and/or politics at this time.”
I’m sorry, what?
My class is a general critical thinking strategy to verify claims in any context.
It’s definitely not about religion or spirituality, so they must’ve considered my course to be political in nature.
I made sure when I published it — in June 2021, by the way, when it was also reviewed by Skillshare’s Content Moderation Team — that it had no controversial elements and that I did not apply the method to anything that could be seen as inflammatory.
That was the moment when I thought to myself I really do not want to be on this platform anymore.
This is censorship. Their education label is complete bullshit.
I wanted to make sure that I understood things correctly, and asked the same individual from the Content Moderation Team to clarify the reason behind the decision and to also inform me about the content removal process and pending payments.
The second I mentioned the account removal, things went quiet on their part for days.
I had to nudge them via Skillshare’s Twitter account and send a general support request to get, from the same individual I mentioned before, the information that my ticket was going to be sent to the Teacher Support Team.
I got no response from him on the other matters.
I wondered why is it that the Content Moderation Team can remove a class but won’t offer clarification regarding the reason behind that removal.
Turns out the decision is made in one department but the aftermath is handled by another segment of their support team.
Whatever… At least things were moving.
By this time, I had already informed the users enrolled in my courses that I was going to ask for the content to be removed and they will only be able to access the classes up until the point when Skillshare will manage my request.
A day later, I get a message from the Teacher Support team.
No answer to any of my questions, including those related to how they were going to handle the pending payments — which aren’t big amounts, it’s the principle that I care about here.
They just sent general information on how I should request the removal of the content and the account data, and the classic thing that they would like to keep me as a teacher, blah blah blah.
I pressed on. I wanted to be able to make public their exact position regarding what I considered to be an unfounded decision regarding my class.
So I said that I wanted to make sure that I understood things correctly and that no one from Skillshare is willing to clarify that part for me, since they keep ignoring the question.
Lo and behold, I got a quick reply which included answers to both of my questions.
Here’s the part about the reason behind the removal of my critical thinking course:
“Happy to clarify!
As previously mentioned by our Moderation Team, your class is closed because Skillshare does not permit classes about religion, spirituality, and/or politics at this time, including any critical thinking around these topics.”
If these people worked for your company, could you think of a worse response?
We do not “permit classes about religion, spirituality, and/or politics at this time, including any critical thinking around these topics”.
Why not just say “We want to stifle free thinking” or “We’re a bunch of uneducated cowards who cannot make the call in this situation, so we just don’t want any legal trouble for allowing classes on… thinking. We’ve trained our minions in this sense”.
I mean, it would’ve been just the same for me.
They likely just removed my class because it had “Fake News” and “Misinformation” in the title. They did not stop to think about whether my course was actually inflammatory, or political, as they mentioned.
Nor did they consider the performance of the class — it had no bad reviews and it caused absolutely no controversial discussions on the platform, or anywhere else.
In fact, at least at this time, my class is active on Udemy — 2700+ students, a 4.3/5 rating, and no controversy stirred by it.
They removed a critical thinking class based on its title and the imagined controversy potential, basically.
So much for logic…
That was my confirmation. I knew I was making the right thing.
I do not want to be associated with a company that is actively involved in censorship and the destruction of education as a free, social phenomenon.
So yeah… Bye-bye, Skillshare! You won’t be missed.
There are many things wrong with Skillshare, and I won’t pretend there aren’t weird things going on over at Udemy as well. I will probably detail some of the issues in future articles.
For now, I just wanted to share what made me remove all my classes from the platform.
Thanks for reading!