Tegan and Sara, Tyler Oakley and Gigi Gorgeous all have one thing in common: they are not happy with YouTube right now.
The A-listers recently used their vast social media influence to call out YouTube for its “Restricted Mode,” a voluntary feature that blocks mature and possibly inappropriate content that may not suit all viewers—after realizing that the feature also seems to filter out numerous videos created by LGBTQ users.
“If you put @YouTube on restricted mode a bunch of our music videos disappear. I checked myself. LGBTQ people shouldn’t be restricted. SAD!,” tweeted Tegan and Sara on March 19, in a statement that was retweeted more than 1,000 times.
— Tegan and Sara (@teganandsara) March 20, 2017
Upon hearing about the restrictions on LGBTQ content, Gigi Gorgeous posted a #ProudToBeRestricted response on YouTube—a video that does not appear with Restricted Mode enabled.
“I really do think this YouTube restriction stops a lot of people from being their authentic selves, and it kills me to say because YouTube has been my home for so many years,” said Gorgeous, who recently released her documentary, This Is Everything: Gigi Gorgeous, with YouTube Red.
According to a blog post by Johanna Wright, vice president of product management for YouTube, Restricted Mode is an optional setting that was introduced in 2010 to help public places like schools and libraries control what their users are viewing on the video-sharing site. The setting appears at the bottom of all YouTube pages and when enabled, is intended to hide videos that could contain “inappropriate content that is flagged by users and other signals.” Wright explains that the feature was designed to restrict viewing of videos that deal with mature subject matter, such as those containing profanity, violence or discussions of topics like addiction and eating disorders. Unlike on personal computers, Restricted Mode cannot be disabled by users on public computers.
The problem Restricted Mode causes for LGBTQ content creators was first highlighted by British YouTuber Rowan Ellis in a video she posted on March 16. According to Ellis, nearly 40 of her videos are unavailable to viewers browsing with Restricted Mode enabled. In the same March 16 video, she recalls trying to search for information about LGBTQ helplines and support groups on school computers when she was younger—but not being able to access these much-needed resources because they were deemed “inappropriate” and blocked.
With Restricted Mode enabled, content such as coming-out videos, the “woman interrupted during BBC interview,” and Tegan and Sara’s “BWU” music video—which shows the singers proposing to different women—were made unavailable. [They have since been made available in Restricted Mode, but when the filter is on, the comments disappear.]
— Sarah Kate Ellis (@sarahkateellis) March 21, 2017
We checked our own YouTube channel, and currently, with Restricted Mode enabled, videos like “Miranda Kerr Talks About How to Wear Lingerie as Outerwear” and our Teeny-Tiny Talk Show’s interview with Matty Matheson from Viceland’s Dead Set On Life disappeared. In fact, of the 34 Teeny-Tiny Talk Show episodes, only 19 appeared when Restricted Mode was activated.
Following the concerns raised on social media, YouTube responded saying that they have adjusted the restrictions on many of the videos that were flagged to them, including content by Tegan and Sara. The social platform is also using the viewer’s input to adjust their systems, but they note that improvements will take time.
It’s nice to know that our collective voices are being heard and that we are being listened to. Good job @YTCreators
— Calum McSwiggan (@CalumMcSwiggan) March 21, 2017
“The bottom line is that this feature isn’t working the way it should,” wrote Wright on behalf of YouTube. “We’re sorry and we’re going to fix it.”
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