YouTube Apologizes for Inadvertently Censoring LGBT Content Through 'Restricted Mode'

One YouTube user whose videos feature feminist and queer perspectives says the filtering tool reinforces 'equating LGBTQ+ with 'not family friendly.''

YouTube user 'GayGod' in his video titled 'YOUTUBE IS BLOCKING LGBTQ CONTENT!!!'
GayGod / YouTube

YouTube has apologized for the fact that its filtering tool inadvertently censored content posted by members of the LGBTQ community around the world. Many LGBTQ individuals had lashed out at the video-sharing website for obscuring certain clips by means of its "restricted mode" tool lately.

The restricted mode does not censor clips per se, but rather is meant, for example, to assist parents who want to prevent their children from being exposed to sexual, violent or verbally abusive content.

“The bottom line is that this feature isn’t working the way it should,” the company wrote in a blog post. “We’re sorry and we’re going to fix it.”

According to the YouTube site, “You can use restricted mode to help you to screen out potentially inappropriate content that you may prefer not to see or don’t want others in your family to see on YouTube. We use community flagging, age restrictions and other signals to identify and filter out potentially inappropriate content. Restricted mode is available in all languages but due to potential cultural sensitivities, the quality may vary.”

The fact that YouTube was flagging LGBTQ content as strictly for adults, however, proved problematic.

Rowan Ellis, a British YouTube user whose pop-culture videos feature feminist and queer perspectives, told Gizmodo last week that the filtering reinforces “a bias somewhere within that process equating LGBTQ+ with ‘not family friendly.’”

A growing group of people who make YouTube videos protested the policy, using the hashtag #YouTubeIsOverParty. While some complained that their videos were blocked by the filter, people objecting to LGBTQ content began flooding YouTube with unfiltered posts with titles like “Why I hate homos.”

YouTube tweeted Sunday, via its YouTube Creators account: “We are so proud to represent the LGBTQ+ voices on our platform — they’re a key part of what YouTube 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. 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.”

A Google spokesman told Buzzfeed that the sensitive content that's been filtered includes clips that deal with subjects like health, politics and sexuality. However, some users, like channel operator NeonFiona, asserted that clips that do not include such content were also being filtered.