Restricted Content: YouTube and the LGBT+ Community
YouTube’s new restricted mode causes controversy by seemingly excluding LGBT+ content.
YouTube has received criticism from LGBT+ users for the way its restricted mode feature interacts with their content.
They argue that the content restriction, introduced in 2010, unfairly targets LGBT+ content on the site, regardless of whether it could be deemed offensive or not.
Content creator Rowan Ellis, whose videos have a “feminist and queer perspective”, highlighted concerns with the filter in a video. She said: “I think it’s really important to look at why LGBT content has been deemed as inappropriate. This is something which goes far beyond a mistake that YouTube might have made that they’re going to draw attention to and fix later.”
Ellis’ video pointed out that when a user activates restricted mode, YouTube appears to filter out significant portions of LGBT+ content on the site, regardless of the nature of the content.
YouTube advertises restricted mode as being “like a parental controls setting for YouTube” that “helps filter out potentially objectionable videos and comments”.
The company says that the system may not be perfect but should remove the majority of content people don’t want to see. It is also not activated by default.
One user suggested a double standard in the system, which allows homophobic content to be seen in the restricted mode while excluding content, which featured LGBT+ themes.
— Ste (@Ste_Tonks) March 20, 2017
Content Creator NeonFiona agreed in a tweet where she said that LGBT+ content was being specifically highlighted as “not safe for kids”.
Just looked at my videos with the "restricted mode" on. Seeing a bit of a theme here…
— fiona ✨ (@neonfiona) March 16, 2017
The criticism of YouTube’s filtering predominantly revolves around LGBT+ individuals disliking the idea of being equated to sex or similar issues parents may seek to protect their children from.
About 1.5 percent of YouTube’s total daily views are from viewers with restricted mode activated.
The company responded to the criticism with a statement on Twitter: “The intention of Restricted Mode is to filter out mature content for the tiny subset of users who want a more limited experience.
“LGBTQ+ videos are available in Restricted Mode, but videos that discuss more sensitive issues may not be. We regret any confusion this has caused and are looking into your concerns.”
However, responses to the statement questioned exactly where the line was drawn, with Content Creator Dodie Clark noting that while videos of hers which contained swearing were visible, makeup tutorials by transgender women were not.
.@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
Clark said that such content allowed members of the LGBT+ community to understand their own identity and feel valid.
Other comments in response to YouTube’s statement followed a similar vein, or questioned what constitutes “sensitive” or “mature” content and what doesn’t in regards to LGBT+ issues.
Chelsea Dunbar from Dundee was incensed by the filtering of content, “The restriction of LGBT+ content on YouTube is unnecessary and indefensible. The content which is being censored here is not explicit; it is being censored because of its LGBT+ nature. The idea that videos dealing with LGBT+ issues are unsuitable for children to watch is both alarming and horrifying.”
On the 20th of March, YouTube released a blog post addressing the controversy.
Johanna Wright, Vice President of Product Management, stated that the company would be working on improving the feature, but that this would take time.
She wrote: “It will take time to fully audit our technology and roll out new changes, so please bear with us.
“There’s nothing more important to us than being a platform where anyone can belong, have a voice and speak out when they believe something needs to be changed.”
Responses on the blog post requested notification if a video would be unavailable in restricted view so that users might adapt their content or contest such a decision.
The controversy has come alongside other issues YouTube has had around offensive content on its platform, with several large advertisers pulling their advertisements from the site in the last week after they appeared alongside videos of racist hate speech or similar offensive content.