YouTube Restricted Mode Editorial
YouTube’s restricted mode is a setting that, as YouTube describes, was designed to “broadly restrict content across more mature topics, whether these are videos that contain profanity, those that depict images or descriptions of violence, or discussion of certain diseases like addictions and eating disorders.” Though it’s unknown how long the new restricted mode policy has been around, it is now causing controversy.
YouTube’s Restricted mode has two features, either a strict filter or no filter and this is a huge problem. This means parents that want to expose children to culture but not an overload of explicit language or sexualized content, can’t. Viewers get the option of either seeing everything or seeing only what YouTube decides they can. It isn’t even clearly stated anywhere what is going to be restricted or exactly for whom the restriction is for.
YouTube’s algorithm for what content and how content is being restricted is confusing everyone. Content creators and viewers alike are frustrated by the restriction and demonetization of content. A lesbian YouTuber, Ello Steph informs us, “According to a spokesperson from YouTube the way restricted mode works is it’s an automated system that filters through keywords and LGBT is one of them.”
Some of the “children unfriendly content” is not even close to inappropriate. Many videos with topics relating to mental health, sexuality, gender identity, religion, and politics have been restricted. Many LGBTQ+ videos featuring proposals, coming out, couples, transgender rights, and even makeup tutorials for trans women have been restricted.
Tyler Oakley, a very well known and loved outwardly gay youtube icon tweeted, “still not fixed. One of my recent videos ‘8 Black LGBT+ Trailblazers who Inspire Me’ is blocked because of this. I’m perplexed.” This is sending everyone into a panic, as this inspirational video is restricted for no logical reason.
This is a huge issue. LGBTQ+ relationship and proposal videos have been deemed as inappropriate whereas many straight couples haven’t been affected at all, even those with sexualized content. Along with these videos, white supremacy, racist, and homophobic content has not been restricted.
These updated restriction guidelines are making it seem like trans people, the entire queer community, and even mental health issues are “inappropriate for children.” Many people’s view of why this is good is because they don’t want children to have to see or think about LGBTQ+ issues until they are older. But that doesn’t mean they won’t still be thinking about their gender or sexuality without even knowing what they are doing.
Popular transgender youtuber, Stef Sanjati said, “Right now the majority of my viewers are young LGBT kids that want to feel that they belong to something, that they’re a part of something. They want to feel they’re not a freak, that they can be successful, that they can live past the age of 18, that they can survive high school and what you are telling those kids is that they are a threat to children.”
Entire channels of LGBTQ+ YouTubers have been restricted and demonetized just because they are LGBTQ+. This issue is theorized to be connected with the issue of oversexualizing trans and queer people. While some LGBTQ+ youtubers have very sexualized videos, so do many straight cisgendered youtubers. A common view of uneducated people is that the LGBTQ+ community is dirty and revolves around sex. This is a really big issue for many as it can make LGBTQ+ people feel inappropriate and uncomfortable just for being who they are.
Children need to know they have this community they can go to. They need to know they aren’t alone. Gigi Gorgeous, a trans woman, and one of the largest creators on the YouTube platform had all her videos about gender identity restricted. She explains that the situation is scary and she doesn’t think there is any ill-intent but the effect is very negative. For her and many others, youtube is a place where they felt safe, accepted and felt they could be proud of who they were. This is something no one wants to lose.
As much as these new restriction rules have been affecting the LGBTQ+ community, they have also been affecting many others. Jaclyn Glenn, who is a youtuber that makes videos about social justice issues and is an outspoken atheist said, “YouTube is demonetizing any video that talks about depression or anxiety.” Children who may suffer from mental health issues or are a part of the LGBTQ+ community might think their feelings are invalid and force them to feel alienated, alone, inappropriate, not family-friendly and scared.These are very important topics and having videos about them that are easy to access helps these children to learn more and feel less alone is very important.
Another issue with these new restriction guidelines is that not only are videos getting restricted but they are getting demonetized. This means that any content creators that live off of their YouTube revenue, which is a great deal of people, have to decide whether they want to keep making the content they want and that they feel strongly about or making what YouTube wants them to and keeping their job. With this mass of demonetization there is a lack of communication between YouTube and it’s creators. The current question is whether or not YouTube is taking people’s freedom of speech.
One of the main reasons for demonetizing videos is the ad boycott YouTube is suffering. Many videos that are applicable for ads are dealing with issues because ad donors have believed these videos are not appropriate for their ads. Looking at all of these issues based on this knowledge helps everyone to understand YouTube’s predicament over these new restrictions. YouTube has to keep their ad donors happy because they need to be collecting money. This isn’t happening with hundreds of companies pulling their ads including Verizon, AT&T, Johnson and Johnson, and Kia.
As understandable as this ad boycott issue is, it doesn’t explain why the restricted mode is limiting freedom of speech. YouTube has apologized and admitted an issue, “We’re sorry and we’re going to fix it.” However there have been no signs of them acting on their word. Creators are getting worried and impatient.
Over censorship and restrictions are keeping people from accessing communities, resources, and information that could be greatly helping them. It is threatening the first amendment, not fully allowing freedom of speech. A company as large as YouTube having this issue is not a good sign for the future of the internet.