YouTube response to LGBTQ Restricted Mode controversy sparks anger

20 Mar 2017

Person vlogging. Image: michaelheim/Shutterstock

YouTube is not shy about annoying various sections of its vast creator community, but its latest controversy has seen the site spark anger by blocking access to certain LGBTQ videos.

Despite having more than 1bn users, video sharing platform YouTube continues to have a strained relationship with a number of its most popular creators for the business and moderating conditions it operates under.

Last year, the introduction of YouTube Heroes – a platform that attempted to recruit volunteer moderators by ‘gamifying’ them – was widely criticised for encouraging self-imposed censorship on certain videos.

Now, YouTube is once again caught in a spotlight it doesn’t want to be in following criticisms that it is supressing LGBTQ content.

According to YouTube stars like Tyler Oakley, videos discussing dating or attraction within the LGBTQ community will be blocked, with a notification telling the poster that it will be hidden from users using Restricted Mode.

Switched off by default, Restricted Mode is YouTube’s way of limiting younger viewers’ access to videos that discuss potentially sensitive subjects. Once enabled, it hides certain content from the site.

YouTube responds

The problem for YouTube is that creators within the LGBTQ community are seeing efforts to limit their content as a form of censorship.

In response, YouTube issued a vague statement that did not refer directly to the controversy and did not answer why it was blocking particular videos from LGBTQ creators.

“LGBTQ+ videos are available in Restricted Mode, but videos that discuss more sensitive subjects may not be,” the statement said.

“We are so proud to represent LGBTQ+ voices on our platform – they’re a key part of YouTube what is all about. The intention of Restricted Mode is to filter out mature content for the tiny subset of users who want a more limited experience.”

PewDiePie – YouTube’s most subscribed-to creator, who was recently caught up in his own controversy – was one of the many creators to offer their thoughts on the lack of clarity from YouTube.

So far, YouTube’s tweet response has been the only comment from the video sharing platform, and affected videos remain blocked under Restricted Mode. Users looking to switch Restricted Mode on or off need to do so  manually at the bottom of any page on the site.

Person vlogging. Image: michaelheim/Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic