High-profile LGBT YouTubers have been calling out YouTube for restricting videos that contain any reference to their sexuality – because innocuous queer content ain’t for the family, folks.
Restricted mode, which aims to “protect children and families”, is off by default. When turned on, though, it automatically filters “inappropriate content”; what counts as inappropriate is, according to Google, determined by, “community flagging, age restrictions, and other signals”. While it’s not a new feature, prominent LGBT and feminist YouTuber Rowan Ellis said that they were only just starting to realise, “the full extent of its impact” and that, “it’s filtering out a hell of a lot of LGBT content”.
The mode has been likened by YouTube to a parental control setting and isn’t likely to be 100 percent accurate 100 percent of the time – this apparent anti-LGBT flagging could simply be a flaw in the algorithm. Many music videos have also been hidden, as well as seemingly random videos from other accounts – however, many LGBT users reported that any and all of their videos in which they mentioned their sexuality had been rendered invisible. Rowan Ellis, who posted a video to her 22,000 subscribers about the apparently anti-LGBT restrictive mode on Thursday, claims that 40 of her videos have been taken down. YouTuber Calum McSwiggan also said that he had had, “every single video on his channel bar one taken off”.
Many other LGBT YouTubers also reported videos in which they mentioned their sexuality or partners being restricted, and Rowan Ellis cited concerns that, “one of the main issues around this is that queer youth cannot get support. YouTube is one of the only places that queer and trans youth, gay youth, bisexual youth, pansexual youth, asexual youth – any of these kids – have a way into community, have a way into knowledge, have a way into feeling like they aren’t alone”.
SeaineLove’s “I Am Transgender” video, where she actually censors her swear words, has also been restricted. NeonFiona’s videos explore a perspective of bisexuality, with content related to having partners of different sexes. She claims her videos about girlfriends have been restricted, but the ones about boyfriends are still readily available.
Tyler Oakley, one of the platform’s biggest stars, tweeted his concerns on Sunday, and told Teen Vogue, “(YouTube) is often the first place many LGBTQ+ youth around the world see themselves and their stories shared and celebrated. Blocking LGBTQ+ creators and content is harmful, plain and simple." He also started the YouTubeIsOverParty hashtag, which thousands of people flooded with support. Among the general outrage, people were pointing out the hypocrisy of YouTube not blocking damaging or homophobic content.
On Sunday night, after the hashtag had been trending for hours, YouTube issued a statement in the form of a tweet. It said: “we are so proud to represent LGBTQ+ voices on our platform – they’re a key part of what YouTube is all about. The intention of Restricted Mode is to filter out mature content for the tiny subset of users who want a more limited experience. LGBTQ+ videos are available in Restricted Mode, but those that discuss sensitive topics may not be. We regret any confusion this has caused and are looking into your concerns. We appreciate your feedback and passion for making YouTube such an inclusive, diverse, and vibrant community”.
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