LGBT Community Anger over Youtube Restrictions Making Videos Invisible
YouTube has responded to accusations of discrimination from high-profile members of its LGBT community, who have reported their videos being hidden by the platform.
#YouTubeIsOverParty was trending on Twitter on Sunday after several users flagged that their videos referencing same-sex relationships or attraction had been filtered out under its restricted mode.
Rowan Ellis, a British YouTuber with a “feminist and queer perspective” and nearly 22,500 subscribers, drew attention to YouTube’s apparent “anti-LGBT” bias in a video posted on Thursday.
Restricted mode is turned off by default but can be turned on to automatically filter “potentially inappropriate” content. According to Google, which owns YouTube, this is identified by “community flagging, age restrictions, and other signals”.
It is not a new feature, but Ellis said YouTubers were “just starting to realise the extent” of its impact: “it is filtering out a hell of a lot of LGBT content”. She said 40 of her own videos had been hidden.
“I think it’s really important to look at why LGBT content has been deemed as inappropriate. This is something which goes far beyond a mistake that YouTube might have made that they’re going to draw attention to and fix later.”
Tyler Oakley – one of the platform’s most popular personalities, with more than 8m subscribers – had tweeted on Sunday afternoon that he was “perplexed” by the apparent double standard for “LGBTQ+ creators” but was awaiting a response from YouTube, fuelling the #YouTubeIsOverParty hashtag.
The platform eventually responded late on Sunday in a tweet from its @YouTubeCreators account, after #YouTubeIsOverParty had been trending on Twitter for several hours. It said “LGBTQ+ voices ... [were] a key part of what YouTube is all about” and that only videos with “mature content” were supposed to be restricted.
“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 videos that discuss more sensitive issues may not be. We regret any confusion this has caused and are looking into your concerns.”
Many members of the YouTube community are now questioning whether LGBT content are inherently “sensitive” or “mature”, given inconsistencies in the videos that are restricted. In a statement to the Guardian, a spokesman reiterated that restricted mode was an “optional feature used by a very small subset of users” that, if enabled, meant some videos “that cover subjects like health, politics and sexuality may not appear”.
British YouTuber, NeonFiona, said videos in which she referenced having a girlfriend or her bisexuality had been hidden, but not those that did not specify her partner’s gender. Restricted mode didn’t appear to discriminate by discussion of sex, she added: “It’s just any and all LGBT+ titles being flagged.”
Melanie Murphy, whose YouTube channel discusses her bisexuality and is followed by nearly 500,000 subscribers, tweeted that “with the click of a button YouTube’s restricted mode makes me appear straight”.
“It’s just really upsetting.”
Another YouTuber, SeaineLove, said she was “so upset” to notice her videos about her experience of coming out as transgender were hidden.
Amelia Ace's video marking “Asexual Awareness Week” was among those of hers to be restricted.
But many other YouTube users have reported videos being inexplicably or unfairly hidden under restricted mode, suggesting it may be a far-reaching flaw of the algorithm used to identify potentially objectionable content.
Austin Hargrave, whose Peanut Butter Gamer channel is followed by nearly 1.7m people, tweeted that “a few random top 10 lists” had been restricted.
Many pop music videos, from artists including Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus and 5 Seconds of Summer, were also hidden.
In a user help video posted by YouTube in 2015, restricted mode was likened “to a parental control setting” and said to be “not 100% accurate”.
Restricted mode has to be enabled and is in most cases turned off.
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