An online petition and prominent vloggers say YouTube is restricting LGBT+ content on its platform, and that’s led some people to declare the platform “is over.”
The creator of the petition at Change.org, Daniel James, writes, “Recently YouTube has added a ‘Restricted Mode’ disabling YouTube viewers to discover videos covering LGBTQ+ related topics and is hiding them from the feed on their platform.”
YouTube stresses that the function is optional, says it is “proud to represent LGBT+ voices” on its platform, and says the filter is designed to “filter out mature content for the tiny subset of users who want a more limited experience.” However, many YouTubers – such as Rowan Ellis in a video above – are also voicing their displeasure. They say the platform is hiding some LGBT+ content as supposedly being “inappropriate.” The hashtag #YouTubeisoverparty was trending on Twitter as a result of the controversy.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. People Blame YouTube’s ‘Restricted Mode’ Setting & One Site Says It Even Hid a Video of a Lesbian Couple Reciting Wedding Vows
The Evening Times says people are blaming YouTube’s “restricted mode” setting for filtering out LGBT+ videos.
Gizmodo reported that it had verified that channels “had LGBT-related videos that disappeared on restricted mode. Other restricted videos include a video of a lesbian couple reading each other their wedding vows.”
People tweeted many other examples under the “YouTubeisoverparty” hashtag:
YouTube says of restricted mode, “You can use Restricted Mode to help screen out potentially objectionable content that you may prefer not to see or don’t want others in your family to see on YouTube. We use community flagging, age-restrictions, and other signals to identify and filter out potentially inappropriate content. Restricted Mode is available in all languages, but due to potential cultural sensitivities, the quality may vary.”
What’s upsetting the YouTubers is they say the mode is flagging and filtering out LGBT+ videos (although Gizmodo notes all of them are not being filtered out and adds that other groups, like gamers, say they are also affected).
Others said it was a problem with YouTube’s algorithm versus a targeting of the LGBT+ community.
YouTube’s site says of the function, “Computers in libraries, universities, and other public institutions may have Restricted Mode enabled by the system administrator. If you’re using a public computer and can’t disable Restricted Mode, contact your system administrator.”
2. James Provided Image & Video Comparison to Make the Case That LGBT+ Content Is Being Filtered Out
James wrote in the petition, “This petition has been created to show support to the LGBTQ+ community within the YouTube community to express the disagreement in YouTube choice to do this and the belief that anyone and everyone should have access LGBTQ+ across the platform without restrictions.”
His opinion was echoed by people on Twitter, many of whom shared memes and GIFs that accused YouTube of leaving up racist and sexist content.
Others just voiced their upset.
Thousands of people were using the hashtag to criticize YouTube.
3. Prominent Vloggers Have Spoken Out & Say Videos That Don’t Discuss Sex Are Also Being Filtered Out
One prominent vlogger, NeonFiona, has tweeted about the restricted mode. She told Gizmodo “that her videos focused on ‘normalising LGBT+ stuff and especially bisexuality’ and the site says the vlogger “worries that young people who turn to YouTube for information on LGBT issues will miss out.”
She wrote on Twitter: “I want to note that ‘An Honest Chat About Being Single’ discusses sex. My bi videos don’t. It’s just any and all LGBT+ titles being flagged.”
NeonFiona’s Twitter profile describes her as “literal witch, queer icon, professional meme farmer and very famous internet celebrity.”
SeaineLove is a trans vlogger who has tweeted about the controversy.
YouTuber, Rowan Ellis, said in the video exposing the controversy that the restricted mode has filtered out her videos, as well as those of other LGBT vloggers. She filmed a video to question the change.
“We don’t really know how long it’s been there, but it’s something that people are just starting to realize the extent of, particularly with regard to LGBT content,” she said in the video.
4. Google Says the Feature Is Optional & Sexuality Discussions Might Cause It
YouTube has released a statement responding to the controversy:
Gizmodo obtained a statement from Google on the controversy. According to Gizmodo, Google says videos featuring talk of sexuality issues could “trip” the filter.
“Restricted Mode is an optional feature used by a very small subset of users who want to have a more limited YouTube experience,” the spokesperson said to Gizmodo. “Some videos that cover subjects like health, politics and sexuality may not appear for users and institutions that choose to use this feature.”
Google provided the same statement to the Gay Times.
5. Critics Say the Filter Is Sending the Wrong Message About LGBT+ Content
According to the Gay Times, YouTube’s restricted mode “aims to protect children and families from inappropriate videos.”
YouTube Ellis says that sends a bad message to LGBT+ youth – implying there’s something wrong with being LGBT+.
“One of the main issues around this is that queer youth cannot get support,” she said in the video she posted to YouTube. “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.”
James noted in his petition that YouTube has claimed to champion LGBT rights.
“A year ago on the 26th June 2016, YouTube released the video “#ProudToLove – Celebrating Marriage Equality and LGBT Pride Month” onto YouTube Spotlight. The video itself was published soon after Gay Marriage was legalised in America and it received a lot of support from around the world in following the countries footsteps hitting over 7M views to date,” he noted, adding, “#PrideToLove… Stick to it YouTube.”