YouTube Plans Policy Changes After LGBTQ Video Controversy
YouTube announced plans to change its “Restricted Mode” setting – an opt-in filter for parents, schools and libraries to keep under-18 users from encountering “potentially inappropriate” content – on Monday. The announcement took place after a number of users, including the duo Tegan and Sara, pointed out that non-explicit clips with themes related to LGBTQ life were unavailable in Restricted Mode.
“The bottom line is that this feature isn’t working the way it should,” Johanna Wright, YouTube’s vice president for product management, wrote. “We’re sorry and we’re going to fix it.”
YouTube users’ complaints about Restricted Mode escalated in a flurry of Twitter activity over the weekend. The protesters included Tegan and Sara, who pointed out that some of their videos were not available in Restricted Mode despite being family-friendly. “If you put @YouTube on restricted mode a bunch of our music videos disappear,” the duo wrote on Sunday. “I checked myself. LGBTQ people shouldn’t be restricted. SAD!”
“Sadly our U-Turn video also is gone,” the band added. “Nothing gay in it accept us. Our dancing IS pretty bad. Must be why? @youtube is it our dancing?”
YouTube issued a series of statements in response. “LGBTQ+ videos are available in Restricted Mode, but videos that discuss more sensitive issues may not be,” the company wrote on Sunday. “We regret any confusion this has caused and are looking into your concerns.” In an emailed statement to The Guardian, YouTube added, “Some videos that cover subjects like health, politics and sexuality may not appear for users and institutions that choose to use this feature.”
The following day, YouTube moved quickly to clarify the purpose of Restricted Mode and announced changes to the policy. “We understand that this has been confusing and upsetting, and many of you have raised concerns about Restricted Mode and your content being unfairly impacted,” Wright explained in a blog post titled “Restricted Mode: How it works and what we can do better.” She also noted that videos like Tegan and Sara’s “BWU” were now available in Restricted Mode. “It will take time to fully audit our technology and roll out new changes,” Wright wrote, “so please bear with us.”
In a tweet on Monday, the company added, “Sorry for all the confusion with Restricted Mode. Some videos have been incorrectly labeled and that’s not right. We’re on it! More to come.”