In an ever-evolving uproar around the tech-gargantuan that gave rise to viral makeup tutorials, eight LGBTQ YouTubers are suing the Google-owned video platform, saying, per court-released documents, that they’re being illegally discriminated against.
The lawsuit, which was filed this week in federal court in San Jose, suggests that YouTube unfairly flags LGBTQ-minded tags and channel descriptions as “offensive” or “sexually explicit.” Thus, when said pieces of content are published and labeled with words like "gay" or "lesbian," the creator's ability to advertise or pull revenue from Google Adsense for those flagged videos is diminished; those eight suing YouTube also believe that the company is stifling the organic reach of their content on the platform, as well, by not recommending their videos through its algorithm.
"All we're saying here is the LGBT community wants a level playing field when it comes to content restriction, monetization of content and the right to advertise content," said Peter Obstler, the attorney representing the aforementioned eight YouTubers — Chris Knight, Celso Dulay, Cameron Stiehl, Bria Kam, Chrissy Chambers, Chase Ross, Brett Somers and Lindsay Amer, respectively — in a public statement on the case.
The plaintiffs all have proof of how many fewer views, and how much less revenue they've received, after changes were made in YouTube's algorithm over the last year. Specifically, as the Wall Street Journal reported in June, YouTube has been struggling to balance the fact that so much of the platforms viewership includes children, and shielding kids from potentially harmful content. The FTC is ready to crackdown on YouTube's lack of safeguards for kids, and this comes years after the platforms infamous "adpocalypse," which led to widespread de-monetization of creators' videos after major advertisers found out that their ads were running on videos containing hate speech, and worse.
However, the San Bruno-headquartered company — which rang with gunfire last April due to a disgruntled animal rights “influencer” entering the property, then opening fire — wholly disagrees with the claims presented against them by the octet.
"[We] have no notion of sexual orientation or gender identity and our systems do not restrict or demonetize videos based on these factors or the inclusion of terms like 'gay' or 'transgender,'" countered YouTube spokesman Alex Joseph to The Hill, regarding the platform's policies and proposed less-than-ideal practices. "In addition, we have strong policies prohibiting hate speech, and we quickly remove content that violates our policies and terminate accounts that do so repeatedly.”
This news comes on the heels of a rather heated discussion between YouTube’s CEO Susan Wojechski and Vox journalist Carlos Manza around the company's harassment policies, earlier this week. Manza has been bullied on the video-sharing platform "for years," he says, and he highlighted egregious abuse by conservative YouTube show host Steven Crowder that YouTube failed to crack down on.
Outside of the current lawsuit, two of the plaintiffs, Chris Knight and Celso Dulay, told The Verge this week that an ad they posted promoting a Christmas episode of their LGBTQ show in 2017 was denied by the platform for containing "shocking content," a decision the company did not reverse until well into January, when the ad was no longer useful.
Photo: Courtesy of Sara Kurfeß, via Unsplash