Udemy retroactively bans courses

As some of you know, I have a couple of video courses up on Udemy. With a notice I received yesterday, I’m not feeling very happy about this.

An email from Udemy stated:

As part of this ongoing process, we recently updated our Trust & Safety guidelines and courses related to weaponry will no longer be allowed in our marketplace. Udemy is a diverse community, and we appreciate that not everyone is going to agree with this decision. Based on feedback from our students and instructors, we believe this change best serves our global community.

As a result of our policy change, access to all weapons-related courses will end on Friday, February 5. Students enrolled in these courses will receive an automatic full refund. We are also communicating with affected instructors directly about this policy update.

I know of a course on making weapons that was disallowed in or before the review process; other than that, I don’t know what specific courses are gone. Perhaps they include courses in hunting, self-defense, or safe handling of weapons. The motivation appears to be pressure from some countries’ governments (not the US). Since Udemy refunds normally come out of the instructor’s pocket, I thought at first that the instructors were being made to pay back all registration fees, but a Udemy representative responded to my question on Facebook and said this wouldn’t be the case.

It seriously dampens my trust in Udemy that they’d cave in to political pressure and remove previously acceptable courses. Courses represent an investment of time and effort, and often of advertising money. It’s easy to imagine other courses — perhaps ones on underground activism or cryptography — similarly being removed because some ruler doesn’t like them. At the moment I’m not feeling very enthusiastic about continuing work on my next course, even though ExifTool seems like a safe subject to teach. The review process is subjective and inconsistent at best. After strictly following guidelines for a 90-second promotion video, I was told it had to be at least 2 minutes long. People on the Facebook forum have reported technical review comments that just didn’t make sense; the impression I got is that reviewers are expected to meet a quota for declaring courses in need of improvement. A precedent of banning previously acceptable courses can only make it worse.

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