In March, the LGBTQ+ community on YouTube was hit by a bombshell that made it even harder for Queer youth to access this safe space online. With new modifications in YouTubes restricted mode, millions of videos that have been considered potentially inappropriate have been hidden.
The “restricted mode” has existed since 2010 and allows parents; schools and libraries, the ability to filter out content that isn’t considered appropriate for users under the age of 18. The automated system looks at signals like the video’s metadata, title, and the language used in the video to restrict videos that are sexually suggestive, contain potentially sensitive topics like war, violence, Drugs and Alcohol, Sex, Mature subjects and Profane and mature language.
Though in the recent system update in March, the algorithm targeted hundreds of thousands of LGBTQ+ content. As a significant number of LGBTQ+ videos disappeared when the mode is enabled, this caused a major uproar, due to a majority of the video were educational and far from harmful. A lot of the content hidden included mental and physical health videos, lifestyle videos, social and political commentary videos and even purely entertainment videos. For example a transgender women doing a make up tutorial.
Ash Hardell is a major LGBTQ+ figure on YouTube who prides herself on educating and benefiting both the fellow Queer community and non queer community, had her entire channel blocked on restricted mode. Ash makes point when examining the use of the word ‘Mature’ in this context, highlighting the insinuation that LGBTQ+ content is something that is perverse, kinky and undeniably something not suited for children.
Following the backlash against the restrictions, YouTube in March admitted and apologisedfor the error, addressing the community via a blog post that explained how Restricted Mode works. There, it promised to do a full audit of its systems to see what was going wrong. The company said at the time that the feature “isn’t working the way it should,” and added “we’re sorry and we’re going to fix it.”
In late April, YouTube said it had completed its investigation and fixed an issue on the engineering side that was incorrectly filtering videos. The company has not detailed what engineering problem was incorrectly flagging videos, but it did lie out a vision statement for how it wanted its Restricted Mode to operate.
“We want to clarify that Restricted Mode should not filter out content belonging to an individual based on certain attributes such as gender, gender identity, political view points, race, religion or sexual identity” – Johanna Wright, YouTubes Vice President of product management.
Fixing the ‘issue’ resulted in 12 million videos of all types across the YouTube community, that have been incorrectly restricted have now been made available in restricted mode, including hundreds of thousands of videos with LGBTQ+ content.
LGBTQ+ content creators are still not happy.
Since, YouTube updated their Advertisement policies. The new policy aims to crack down on hate speech, graphic violence and also gives companies the ability to remove their ads from videos they believe does not suit there brand.
As a result, revenue across the platform has decreased and LGBTQ+ content creators are extremely concerned for the longevity of their channels. Lifestyle content creator, Ello Steph expressed her concern in her video LEAVING YOUTUBE (not clickbait), stating ” LGBTQ+ content can cease to exist”.
The LGBTQ+ community has created a YouTube safe space for questioning youth to go when they do not have the support or education structure directly around them. So, the fear of loosing LGBTQ+ content creators on the platform would have a major impact on LGBTQ+ youth culture and experience.
Ash Hardell –
Calum McSwiggan –
Rowan Ellis –
Change Your Mind – Ocean Shiver
Further readings / References:
Pullen, Christopher. Queer Youth and Media Cultures, edited by Christopher Pullen, Palgrave Macmillan UK, 2014. ProQuest Ebook Central. Accessed online: http://ebookcentral.proquest.com.ezproxy.uow.edu.au/lib/uow/detail.action?docID=1809348
Hunt, Elle. 2017. LGBT community anger over YouTube restrictions which make their videos invisible. The Guardian. Accessed online: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/mar/20/lgbt-community-anger-over-youtube-restrictions-which-make-their-videos-invisible
North, Glen. 2017. YouTube’s LGBT Restrictions Are About More Than Views. Pride. Accessed online: http://www.pride.com/firstperson/2017/3/23/youtubes-lgbt-restrictions-are-about-more-views
Variety, 2017. After Backlash, YouTube Says ‘Restricted Mode’ More LGBTQ-Inclusive. NBC News. Accessed online: http://www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/after-backlash-youtube-says-restricted-mode-more-lgbtq-inclusive-n750101
Fox News Tech, 2017. YouTube revamps Restricted Mode feature that sparked outrage over LGBT content. Fox News. Accessed online: http://www.foxnews.com/tech/2017/04/21/youtube-revamps-restricted-mode-feature-that-sparked-outrage-over-lgbt-content.html
YouTube Creator Blog. 2017. Strengthening YouTube for advertisers and creators. YouTube. Accessed online: https://youtube-creators.googleblog.com/2017/03/strengthening-youtube-for-advertisers.html
YouTube Creator Blog. 2017. Advertiser-friendly content guidelines. YouTube. Accessed online: https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/6162278?hl=en
Perez, Sarah. 2017. YouTube says it fixed the problem with Restricted Mode that was filtering LGBTQ+ content. Tech Crunch. Accessed online: https://techcrunch.com/2017/04/21/youtube-says-it-fixed-the-problem-with-restricted-mode-that-was-filtering-lgbtq-content/
NBC Out. 2017. After Backlash, YouTube Says ‘Restricted Mode’ More LGBTQ-Inclusive. NBC News. Accessed online: http://www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/after-backlash-youtube-says-restricted-mode-more-lgbtq-inclusive-n750101