YouTube came under fire from users and many prominent YouTubers over the weekend who accused the online video platform of restricting the viewing of LGBTQ+ videos.
The controversy was picked up on Twitter after Tyler Oakley, a YouTube personality with more than eight million subscribers, noticed one of his recent videos was “blocked.” He attributed to the problem to YouTube’s Restricted Mode, which he said blocks videos with “LGBT” in the title or those created by openly gay YouTubers. YouTube doesn’t explicitly specify what content gets flagged.
The company tweeted out a statement Sunday night clarifying that many of the videos weren’t getting banned, but were showing up under YouTube’s Restricted Mode. The mode can be enabled by parents or those handling public computers, such as libraries or universities, to restrict “potentially objectionable content.” According to a support page, YouTube uses “community flagging, age-restrictions, and other signals” to identify which videos go behind the filter.
It also notes that the mode isn’t 100 percent accurate.
“The intention of Restricted Mode is to filter out mature content for the tiny subset of users who want a more limited experience,” the company wrote. “LGBTQ+ videos are available in Restricted Mode, but videos that discuss more sensitive issues may not be.”
A number of openly gay and transgender content creators took to Twitter under the hashtag #YouTubeIsOverParty to express their concerns. Many creators, like doddleoddle, observed that Restricted Mode didn’t affect videos with things such as swearing, which they deemed unfair.
Others noticed that Restricted Mode also doesn’t seem to cover videos that seek to harm or insult LGBTQ+ people. This includes videos with “gay” or other related terms in the titles.
This isn’t the first time that the video service has received criticism for censoring certain videos by putting them behind the Restricted Mode label. Some conservative YouTubers noticed similar activity on their videos in 2016.
Following the criticism, YouTube released another statement on Twitter that noted a number of videos were incorrectly labeled and that teams were working on fixing the problem.
Algorithms are never a perfect science, which the company understands and could be why a lot of videos are getting mislabeled. However, the blame could also be on community flagging, which allows anybody to report a video for being inappropriate.
And yes, people can turn off Restricted Mode whenever they want but what’s really at issue is the sense of injustice to the LGBTQ+ community over the flagging of material about or by them. Detractors argue that YouTube’s current restrictions represent an outdated, conservative view, one that assumes that LGBTQ+ content in any form is not appropriate for children.
YouTube has not responded to TheWrap’s request for comment.