How YouTube is censoring LGBTQ+ content with “Restricted Mode”

Earlier this month YouTubers noticed that videos focusing on LGBTQ+ issues were being blocked from view in “Restricted Mode,” a setting typically used in schools and public spaces.

The optional feature was created in 2010 to shield viewers from what YouTube calls “potentially mature content”. This is described as content including “profanity or extreme violence” or “sexually suggestive” comments.

Restricted Mode has now led to accusations of discrimination from LGBTQ+ YouTubers whose videos and channels have been automatically blocked from public view in the mode.

The setting restricts videos with LGBTQ+ titles and blocks openly gay YouTubers from suggestions regardless of whether their content contains inappropriate language or sexually explicit anecdotes.

Videos from columnist Dan Savage’s It Gets Better campaign, which aims to reassure young audiences about their sexuality, are among those that will generate this screen:

Since the problem was identified, YouTube has responded to say they are working on a solution.

The YouTube Creators account tweeted: “We are so proud to represent LGBTQ+ voices on our platform—they’re a key part of what YouTube is all about.”

“We regret any confusion this has caused and are looking into your concerns.”

Jazza John, a 27-year-old vlogger from London, has kick-started a petition asking YouTube for a transparent approach to how and why content is being restricted.

The petition, which currently has 1,697 of its target of 2,500 signatures, hopes that YouTube will consider three criteria when reworking the setting.

Jazza hopes YouTube will inform channels when their content has been blocked, produce guidelines which indicate what type of content will be filtered in Restricted Mode, and give channels a clear way of appealing what they see as unjustified inclusion as restricted content.

“With Restricted Mode turned on most of my channel is invisible,” he said.

“YouTube has been used as a resource by isolated people struggling with their gender and sexuality for over a decade.

“LGBT vloggers are often vital for young, queer people to remind and reinforce that even if they’re being rejected by their family and peers, their tribe is out there.”

“I worry about the people who may only have access to these resources in public areas like schools and libraries, exactly the types of institutions that would use Restricted Mode.”

This content censorship has left YouTube in hot water, with many of its largest content providers asking why LGBTQ+ content is automatically considered inappropriate.

Vlogger Tyler Oakley, who has over eight million YouTube subscribers, tweeted that he was “perplexed” by the decision.

British YouTuber Calum McSwiggan said that his video detailing how he came out to his grandmother, which was aimed at a younger audience, was blocked in “Restricted Mode.”

He posted a video entitled “This video is too gay for kids” in response to all but one of his videos being blocked in the setting.

Others took to Twitter to express their concerns:

This restriction is not only affecting vloggers, with music videos from Taylor Swift, 5 Seconds of Summer, and Miley Cyrus also disappearing from view in the mode.

“Restricted Mode” is an optional setting which is switched on or off in YouTube by the user.

Faith Ridler

MA print journalism student at the University of Sheffield covering the Rotherham area. Follow my tweets @FaithLRidler