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YouTube 'accidentally' filters out videos about LGBTQ community

by Tegan Mazur - Copy Editor
Mon, Mar 27th 2017 10:15 pm
Photo taken from Music News & Facts on Twitter

Members of the LGBTQ community were outraged when it was discovered many YouTube videos posted by members of the community were filtered out as a result of  YouTube's new filtering algorithm.  Youtube has apologized for the mistake.
Photo taken from Music News & Facts on Twitter Members of the LGBTQ community were outraged when it was discovered many YouTube videos posted by members of the community were filtered out as a result of YouTube's new filtering algorithm. Youtube has apologized for the mistake.

 Oh boy have I got a good one for you this week, folks. We all know and love YouTube: cute cats, instructional videos and music videos. You name it and we probably watch it on YouTube. This trusted website has recently landed itself in quite the debacle with the LGBTQ community.  The website has recently changed the way its restricted mode works, and as a result the new restricted mode has been blocking LGBTQ content. What is most confusing is that it has not been blocking all LGBTQ content but only select videos, and many YouTubers with LGBTQ content have reported that their videos have been taken down.

According to The Daily Beast article by Samantha Allen, "Why YouTube Wants to Hide These LGBT Videos From Young People," many artists including popular lesbian singers Tegan and Sara have reported their videos being taken down. Tegan and Sara reported their video "U-turn", which includes no adult language or images, was taken down without proper explanation or reasoning. 

Before I really dig into this, I will give YouTube the benefit of the doubt. Their response to the reactions seemed fairly genuine. According to the Daily Beast article, the creators of YouTube responded on Twitter, apologizing for the error, saying they support all LGBTQ YouTubers and the restricted mode is only meant to filter out sensitive content. They blamed this issue on an incorrect algorithm and the labelling of certain videos as sensitive and promised to fix it. The apology by YouTube does not make the root issue go away, but it appears that their apology was sincere. There was no attempt to excuse it, only a promise to fix the mistake and a reaffirmation of their support of the LGBTQ community on YouTube. 

You can't ask for more than that once a mistake has been made. But let's talk about that mistake, shall we?

It's true that restricted mode is an optional feature on YouTube, meaning these videos are not restricted by default or by necessity. However, making this kind of mistake takes away the opportunity for those most likely to have restricted mode on: children. Children, funnily enough, are also those who need LGBTQ videos the most. LGBTQ kids often find themselves cut off from the world, feeling alone and scared, sometimes in households that want them to stay that way. YouTube, however, is a place where you can watch anything and see all kinds of people freely speaking and expressing themselves and teaching. I can tell you that transgender people often rely on YouTube for makeup tutorials, voice training and many other things to help them feel more comfortable trying to pass. Even beyond that, many kids just need to see other people like them in the world. Taking that away from them in any circumstance is inexcusable, mistake or not.

Another large issue with this whole situation, despite YouTube's apology, is the type of videos that were taken down in restricted mode. If you have never seen Tegan and Sara's video, "U-turn", I urge anyone reading this to watch it. It exemplifies the stupefying logic of this restriction of LGBTQ content. It's just the two of them dancing in front of a green screen and sitting in a car. It's hard to accept YouTube's apology and move on when it is clear that this was not just a mistake of recognizing sensitive content. There is certainly another layer to examine in regards to the habitual assumptions people have about the LGBTQ community.

The debate, or rather the misguided notion that many conservative ideologies hold, is that LGBTQ content is harmful to and not suitable for children. As much as I would love to oblige that kind of staunch, stalwart homophobia, I just can't. There is nothing remotely dangerous about being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, and such an experience is certainly not "inappropriate." On the other hand I would argue that the way LGBTQ people are villainized and sexualized in the media and in the global consciousness is quite harmful. The way many people, organizations and corporations assume that the LGBTQ community has only harm and confusion to offer the children of the world. Such an assumption also ignores the fact that many children of the world already identify as LGBTQ and comprise a good portion of its population.

Everyone makes mistakes. I'm not calling for a boycott of YouTube or anything like that.  YouTube made a mistake and the public responded, and now they're going to fix it. For now that seems like enough. Progress is made in steps not leaps. But at the same time it is important to think about the next step when you've finished the last one.  The next step here is not to pat YouTube on the back and go back to business as usual, but to look at the world and ask, "why did this happen in the first place," and move on from there.


teganh83@gmail.com

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