There's been an LGBTQ vlogger revolt on YouTube that prompted an apology from the video platform Monday, but it's unclear if the issue that upset them has been resolved.
As CNet reports, vloggers recently began noticing that videos that contain no offensive language or other sensitive content, but may contain LGBTQ-themed content anything from coming out stories to wedding vows were getting filtered out of YouTube's Restricted Mode, a mode set up by the company to allow parents or others to block content deemed unsuitable for children under 18, when it is activated.
YouTube issued a vague statement via Twitter today saying that while some LGBTQ videos remain available in Restricted Mode, "videos that discuss more sensitive issues may not be." What those "sensitive issues" are remains unclear, and multiple vloggers have pointed out that nothing they posted could reasonably be called "sensitive," yet their videos were blocked anyway. YouTube would subsequently tweet, "Some videos have been incorrectly labeled and that's not right. We're on it! More to come," and as of Monday afternoon, some of these LGBTQ videos had their blocked status lifted.
A message to our community ... pic.twitter.com/oHNiiI7CVs— YouTube Creators (@YTCreators) March 20, 2017
Here's what "restricted" users see when they try to watch my latest video, a recap of the week's LGBT news. No idea why it's flagged. pic.twitter.com/7lXAo366pj— MattBaume (@MattBaume) March 20, 2017
The dustup is just the latest in a series of similar arguments about flagging systems and algorithms that are meant to catch or censor offensive content, much like the fight over the Napalm Girl photograph posted by a Norwegian newspaper and subsequently censored by Facebook last September. The platform soon reversed itself and apologized, admitting that their systems remain imperfect.
But there is a major swath of the vlogging community devoted to LGBTQ stories, much of it geared toward teenagers who may not otherwise hear such voices in their daily lives and may benefit from knowing they exist.
The Associated Press points out that "It's unclear whether the types of videos in question are now being categorized as 'restricted' for the first time, or whether this is a long-standing policy that is only now getting attention. More likely, it is the latter."
Still, the controversy likely points to a breakdown between videos that are being flagged by users who dislike LGBTQ people as offensive, and YouTube's internal review process of the flags. The company claims that they review all videos flagged for "restricted" content, however their own description of what could be deemed "restricted" does not mention anything connected to LGBTQ stories or news. It's only videos "containing sexually explicit language or excessive profanity," videos "containing nudity or dramatized sexual conduct... Videos featuring individuals in minimal or revealing clothing may also be age-restricted if they're intended to be sexually provocative... [and videos showing adults] engaging in activities that have a high risk of injury or death."