Several prominent YouTubers this week have noticed that the platform is flagging their LGBTQ-themed content as potentially "inappropriate" by making the videos invisible to users browsing under Restricted Mode.
Restricted Mode has allowed viewers to filter out "videos that may contain inappropriate content" since 2015, but some vloggers say the algorithm has now begun hiding perfectly appropriate videos that happen to feature LGBTQ+ perspectives.
On Thursday, the vlogger NeonFiona tweeted side-by-side screenshots showing that her videos containing the words "lesbian," "gay," or "bisexual" in the titles are restricted, while her other videos are available for anyone to view.
As Fiona noted on Twitter, the restrictions appear to be based on title keywords - not the videos' actual content.
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.- fiona ✨ (@neonfiona) March 16, 2017
On Sunday, Tyler Oakley called out YouTube on Twitter, pointing out that his video "8 Black LGBTQ+ Trailblazers Who Inspire Me" is blocked under Restricted Mode.
Gigi Gorgeous discovered that her videos discussing gender, sexuality, and her transition were all barred under Restricted Mode. In a powerful video posted on Sunday, she explained why it's so important for everyone to be able to see LGBTQ-friendly content.
"YouTube was my family, YouTube was the place where I found a community of people that understood what I was going through..." she said. "Someone's coming out video is what a 10, 11, 12-year-old - or younger - might need to see. That video might be the ultimate tipping point for them - in their transition, in their gender identity, in them becoming the best person they can be. And I really do think that this YouTube restriction stops people from being their authentic selves."
Vlogger Rowan Ellis, who makes videos about pop culture from a feminist and queer perspective, said about 40 of her videos are invisible under Restricted Mode (including the video she made to discuss the Restricted Mode problem).
As a result, some users are protesting the platform by tweeting #YouTubeIsOverParty.
the existence of gay people is NOT 18+ and shouldn't be censored. the enemy is not homosexuality the enemy is hate #YouTubeIsOverParty- riley (@lameassri) March 20, 2017
In a statement issued Sunday, a spokesperson for YouTube admitted that certain LGBTQ+ videos - those that "discuss more sensitive issues" - have been restricted.
A message to our community ... pic.twitter.com/oHNiiI7CVs- YouTube Creators (@YTCreators) March 20, 2017
But that explanation isn't sitting well with many users, who contend that YouTube has subjectively labeled their very identities "sensitive." (After all, what could be sensitive about a celebration of LGBTQ+ trailblazers?)
.@YTCreators you're blocking everything with any hint of lgbtq+! Vids of me swearing aren't restricted but transwomen makeup tutorials are- dodie (@doddleoddle) March 20, 2017
@_averyelaine_ But it doesn't make sense at all? It's this sort of mentality that is harming the LGBT+ community & future gay and trans kids- screaming boy (@doddlewaddle) March 20, 2017
In the statement, YouTube pledged its commitment to making the platform inclusive, and vowed to look into the matter.
Update, April 24, 2017:
On Friday, April 21, Johanna Wright, YouTube's Vice President of Product Management, issued a statement updating its users on the changes its engineers made to Restricted Mode.
"... we fixed an issue that was incorrectly filtering videos for this feature, and now 12 million additional videos of all types - including hundreds of thousands featuring LGBTQ+ content - are available in Restricted Mode," Wright wrote.
She outlined the specific subjects that could get a video flagged for Restriction Mode, including drugs, alcohol, sex (although videos pertaining to sexual education may be permitted), violence, mature subjects (defined as "terrorism, war, crime, and political conflicts that resulted in death or serious injury"), and profane language.
Wright emphasized that Restricted Mode was never intended to discriminate among creators.
"We want to clarify that Restricted Mode should not filter out content belonging to individuals or groups based on certain attributes like gender, gender identity, political viewpoints, race, religion or sexual orientation," she wrote.
Based on feedback that YouTube received from creators, a form is now available for creators to petition the platform to make their videos visible in Restricted Mode.
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