YouTube got itself in trouble over the weekend after users discovered that the Restricted Mode feature is hiding LGBTQ+ content.
According to Google, which owns YouTube, Restricted Mode is an optional mode that helps users to screen out “potentially objectionable content” on the video-sharing site.
Google says that it uses three criteria to censor in videos in the mode: “community flagging”, “age-restrictions” and the vague-sounding “other signals”. In addition, it notes that computers in libraries, universities and other public institutions may have Restricted Mode enabled by default.
Among the first to notice the censoring of LGBTQ+ content was British YouTuber Rowan Ellis. In her bio, Ellis states that she makes videos about pop culture from a feminist and queer perspective”. The video below talks about the censorship, and ironically is one of the videos hidden in the mode.
Ellis says that she has had “around 40 videos” taken off the platform in Restricted Mode and that fellow LGBT+ YouTuber Calum McSwiggan had “every single video on his channel, bar one” one taken off.
YouTuber SeaineLove added to the evidence, pointing out that three of her videos, including “I am Transgender” is now censored in restricted mode. That video does include swearing, but SeaineLove took it upon herself to bleep those words out.
ALL 3 OF MY RECENT VIDEOS (ABOUT ME BEING TRANS) ARE GONE AFTER YOU TURN ON HE AGE RESTRICTION FILTER I'M SO UPSET. 😡 https://t.co/IpVnL7zfph
— Seaine (@SeaineLove) March 17, 2017
NeonFiona, another LGBTQ+ content creator, posted screenshots of her channel with and without the mode, showing that the words “gay”, lesbian” and “bisexual” are all hidden when the mode is switched on.
Just looked at my videos with the "restricted mode" on. Seeing a bit of a theme here…
— fiona ✨ (@neonfiona) March 16, 2017
The YouTubers in question feel that their videos are important for normalizing LGBTQ+ issues and that they may be a crucial resource for young people who want to understand more or receive support.
Meanwhile, Twitter has been exploding in response to the removing on LGBTQ+ content. The hashtag #YouTubeIsOverParty is currently trending on the social media site and has racked up over 130,000 tweets.
The overwhelming majority of tweets are in support of LGBTQ+ rights. For example:
— Kiara (@solocuban) March 19, 2017
honestly so disappointed. love is love 🌈🌈🌈🌈🌈💘💘💘 #YouTubeIsOverParty
— ㅤ (@_chardawn) March 19, 2017
#YouTubeIsOverParty wtf is wrong with youtube, support the LGBT+ community 🏳️🌈❤
— Nickay 百 (@NickayClifford) March 19, 2017
— selly-lauren🌹🌹🌹 (@alison499) March 19, 2017
It should be noted that Restricted Mode doesn’t only affect LGBTQ+ YouTubers, and has also removed videos from gaming channels. In a statement, a Google spokesperson told Gizmodo:
Restricted Mode is an optional feature used by a very small subset of users who want to have a more limited YouTube experience,” the spokesperson said. “Some videos that cover subjects like health, politics and sexuality may not appear for users and institutions that choose to use this feature.
While Google may claim that the mode is optional, this seems to run counter with the claim that the mode may be on by default on public and shared accounts.