YouTube has stopped blocking LGBTQ+ content in Restricted Mode

Photo: Ludovic Bertron ©2008 laverrue
Photo: Ludovic Bertron ©2008 laverrue

YouTube announced that they are no longer filtering out LGBTQ+ content in their “Restricted Mode”. The streaming giant said that the issue was merely a technical error, and that they never intended to block LGBTQ+ content.

Restricted Mode filters out mature content and is intended to be used at schools, libraries and by parents. YouTube clarified in its blogpost yesterday that the mode is not intended to filter content:

“belonging to individuals or groups based on certain attributes like gender, gender identity, political viewpoints, race, religion or sexual orientation.”

After YouTube made the changes, 12 million additional videos are now viewable in the mode. The figure includes hundreds of thousands which feature LGBTQ+ content. That’s one hell of a big oversight from YouTube.

YouTube userbase reacts to LGBTQ+ blocking

Naturally, much of YouTube’s userbase was VERY unimpressed with the original blocking of the videos. Rowan Ellis (see above) brought the issue to the forefront with a video titled “YouTube is Anti-LGBT?”. YouTube star Calum McSwiggan also responded to the censorshop with an upload titled “This video is too gay for kids”, which despite not having any offensive content, ended up being blocked under the original regime. Footage such as lesbian couple reading marriage vows were also blocked. Bizarrely, even content relating to asexuality was restricted under by system.

YouTube improves reporting of inappropriately banned videos

YouTube also consulted with content creators about the changes, and reported:

“One thing we heard loud and clear was people’s desire to report videos they believed were being inappropriately excluded from Restricted Mode. Starting today, we’re providing a form to allow creators and viewers alike to give us feedback about this.”

The site also stated that users requested more clarification about what type of content is meant to be blocked in Restricted Mode. YouTube explained that it’s intended to filter discussion and depiction of mature content relating to drugs, alcohol, detailed conversations about sex, violence and coarse language. The system also filters content relating to injuries/deaths in war, crime and terrorism. YouTube added that sex was one of the more difficult topics to filter, commenting:

“Some educational, straightforward conversations about sexual education may be included in Restricted Mode, overly detailed conversations about sex or sexual activity will likely be removed… context is key.”

Tough task, but YouTube should have done better

YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki
YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki.

Reading all that I can see how it would be tough to create a regime to cover all of that type of material. Straight-out blocking hundreds of thousands of LGBTQ+ videos is ridiculous though. If YouTube’s claim that it was unintentional can be believed, then it nonetheless represents gross negligence in terms of checking what kind of content was being blocked by the system.

Filter controversy follows YouTube advertising disaster

YouTube’s automated systems also brought the company under fire from advertisers last month. Big name companies began pulling their ads off YouTube after realising they were sometimes appearing next to videos promoting terrorism, racism and other extremist content. Notable advertisers who took such action include AT&T, Verizon and Johnson & Johnson. You can bet it’s not a very pleasant time to be working in YouTube’s IT department right now. The company’s failures in this area are even more notable considering it’s a subsidiary which has access to Google’s powerful AI technology.

*Header photo: Ludovic Bertron ©2008 laverrue

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