YouTube has a Restricted Mode that filters out content that is “potentially inappropriate”. Last weekend, some users began to notice that videos that were in any way associated with LGBT people were hidden under the Restricted Mode.
By default, this mode is off, but users can set this mode on manually. The feature relies on “community flagging, age restrictions and other signals” to identify such content.
Blocked videos included one where a lesbian couple was getting married, ones that had the words “gay”, “lesbian” or “bisexual” in the titles, and transgender make-up tutorials. Popular singer Ariana Grande's vlogs, in which she speaks for LGBT people and supports them with advice, were also blocked.
LGBT users voiced their concerns through Twitter, and soon there was outrage.
Tyler Oakley, a YouTube celebrity, who has a video about LGBT people who inspire him, tweeted that it was blocked. Similarly, Canadian indie singers Tegan and Sara also pointed out that while some of their videos were hidden, a few other songs “made it past the censors”.
The hashtag, #YouTubeIsOverParty began to trend over the weekend.
While it's true that Restricted Mode could be turned off and all the videos would be available, some users said that “that isn't the issue”. The fact that LGBT videos had to be blocked at all, considered "inappropriate", was itself a subliminal statement.
Rowan Ellis, an activist, was the one who brought the world's attention to this issue with a video uploaded on YouTube on Friday.
YouTube creators tweeted an official statement today, saying that they were proud to represent the LGBT community. “The intention of Restricted Mode is to filter out mature content for the tiny subset of users who want a more limited experience,” they said, “LGBTQ+ videos are available in Restricted Mode, but videos that discuss more sensitive issues may not be. We regret any confusion this has caused.”
However, some people were quick to point out the hypocrisy in what is considered “sensitive issues”. They noted that along with anti-LGBT videos, even racist or sexist videos were not blocked.
Ellis also tweeted that the statement was “ignorant defensiveness”. She went on to say: “I doubt YouTube reached out to many, if any, LGBTQ+ creators to discuss the situation.”
LGBTQ+ youth are wonderful and strong and perfect but also scared and confused and isolated... you're twisting the knife further here.— Rowan Ellis (@HeyRowanEllis) March 20, 2017