YouTube’s Restricted Mode Blocks LGBTQIA Videos

Matt Fazekas, Staff Writer

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In recent days, it has come to light that YouTube’s restricted mode filters out content from LGBTQIA creators. The issue came to light after blogger Rowan Ellis noted that approximately forty of her videos were excluded from YouTube searches while in restricted mode. Said videos were apparently censored for containing terms such as “queer” or “LGBTQ+” in the titles.

In the days since, multitudes of YouTube creators have found that their content was similarly filtered out of searches. The hashtag “#YouTubeisOverParty” started trending on Sunday in response to YouTube’s restrictions on queer content. While the restricted mode has existed for a while, it was not until recently that the extent of the restrictions were known.

In response to the backlash, YouTube released a statement: “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.”

Many have noted that in contrast to YouTube’s statement claiming that the mode was about mature content, many of the videos flagged as inappropriate were fairly innocuous. The main defining feature of many of the videos affected is that their titles contained words referencing sexuality or gender. Coming-out videos, videos made as a way to announce that one is coming out of the closet, were censored in many cases.

In some cases, entire channels were flagged as “inappropriate.” In at least one case, the channel and videos about the work of a victim of harassment was entirely removed from YouTube search results in filtered mode, while videos made as part of the harassment campaign against them, which include threats of violence towards them and insults directed at their sexuality, were left up. The person’s restricted channel contains educational videos about circuitry and magnetism, and updates on the video games they’ve worked on.

The primary concern creators have voiced is for younger queer people. YouTube, by its international, all-reaching nature, provided many youth with voices that represented their lives and experiences. For many, YouTube provided them with proof that they weren’t alone, that they weren’t wrong for feeling the way they did.

“It isn’t surprising to me, but at the same time, I would expect YouTube to be better than that,” said Sarah Schulz, a Social Sciences student at Kishwaukee College. “[The mode] shouldn’t have been put in place by YouTube.”

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