YouTube promo paid for positive mentions of Xbox One

Updated with comment from Microsoft.

The internet is abuzz with the ramifications of what appears to be a shady, unethical deal to promote Xbox One on YouTube. A short-lived promotional campaign driven by Machinima paid "influencers" on the site for mentioning Xbox One in their videos. However, the terms required participants to not only be silent about the deal, but to ensure that they made no mention of Xbox One in a negative light.

The promo, which ran from January 14 through 16, paid $3 for every thousand video views in which Xbox One content was featured and promoted in a favorable light. According to the agreement, creators "may not say anything negative or disparaging about Machinima, Xbox One, or any of its Games." Even worse, they must not disclose any details of the financial arrangement.

As Ars Technica points out, those terms may go against FTC guidelines which require full disclosure when there is a "a connection between the endorser and the seller of the advertised product that might materially affect the weight or credibility of the endorsement." It's why our reviews at Shacknews always disclose when we receive video games for free.

The short-lived campaign means that the promotion had relatively limited reach, but it could put into question the validity of the opinions of certain YouTubers--especially those that don't disclose their financial connection to sponsors.

Following the story, a Microsoft spokesperson contacted us to say that the company had no formal knowledge of the promotion. "Microsoft was not aware of individual contracts Machinima had with their content providers as part of this promotion and we didn't provide feedback on any of the videos. We have asked Machinima to not post any additional Xbox One content as part of this media buy and we have asked them to add disclaimers to the videos that were part of this program indicating they were part of paid advertising."