Several LGBTQ YouTube creators are suing the video giant and its parent company, Google, saying it has restricted their ability to monetize their channels and stifled their content’s reach because of their sexual orientation.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in federal court in San Jose, California, said YouTube leverages “unlawful content regulation, distribution, and monetization practices that stigmatize, restrict, block, demonetize, and financially harm the LGBTQ+ Plaintiffs and the greater LGBTQ+ Community.” The lawsuit said YouTube brands content “shocking,” “offensive” or “sexually explicit” based on the creator’s sexual orientation, rather than what is in the videos.
YouTube’s practices, according to the lawsuit, block LGBTQ users from monetizing their content through ads and other means. Two of the plaintiffs, Celso Dulay and Chris Knight, producers of the “GNews!” talkshow, said they wanted to buy an ad from YouTube to promote a Christmas special but were denied because their video was labeled “shocking content.” Eventually, after working through several levels of YouTube management, the creators received the green light to advertise their video, but it came three weeks after Christmas.
A YouTube spokesperson, in a statement shared with TheWrap, denied the company restricts content based on sexual orientation.
“We’re proud that so many LGBTQ creators have chosen YouTube as a place to share their stories and build community,” the spokesperson said. “All content on our site is subject to the same policies. Our policies have no notion of sexual orientation or gender identity and our systems do not restrict or demonetize videos based on these factors or the inclusion of terms like ‘gay’ or ‘transgender.’ In addition, we have strong policies prohibiting hate speech, and we quickly remove content that violates our policies and terminate accounts that do so repeatedly.”
The lawsuit pointed to YouTube’s policies against “hate speech,” saying the company capriciously enforces its own rules by hindering LGBTQ creators while continuing to “profit from violent, obscene, and threatening hate speech” videos.
The class action lawsuit represents eight YouTubers and is calling on more to join.
The lawsuit comes only a short time after YouTube decided to stop running ads on conservative commentator Steven Crowder’s channel; Carlos Maza, a video producer for Vox at the time, accused Crowder of harassing him for two years in videos in which Crowder calls him a “Lispy Queer” and a “Gay Latino” while rebutting political videos made by Maza. Maza also criticized Crowder for selling shirts of Che Guevara with the slogan “Socialism Is for F-gs.”
YouTube’s decision sparked a wide debate among creators. Some insisted the internet’s dominant video site was right to cut Crowder’s advertising, while others worried it was going down a slippery slope towards curtailing free expression.
You can read the full lawsuit courtesy of Business Insider on Scribd.