Report: YouTube Feature 'Restricted Mode' Apparently Blocks LGBTQ Content

Monday March 20, 2017

LGBTQ YouTubers are noticing their content is being censored when users switch on the video website's "Restricted Mode," an optional filter that blocks "potentially inappropriate content," according to a report from technology website Gizmodo.

Restricted Mode is turned off by default but can be switched on and locked to prevent changes on the browser. The mode is usually used for children. Google, which owns YouTube, says it uses "community flagging, age-restrictions, and other signals to identify and filter out potentially inappropriate content."

Gizmodo reports U.K. vlogger Rowen Ellis, who makes videos about "pop culture from a feminist and queer perspective," recently posted a video, criticizing YouTube for restricting LGBTQ content.

In Gizmodo's report published Friday, the website verified the clip, along with other channels that have LGBTQ-related videos, disappeared when Restriction Mode was activated. One blocked video is a lesbian couple reading each other wedding vows, Gizmodo notes.

Speaking with the technology website, Ellis said she found the blocking of LGBTQ content troubling because it implies "there is a bias somewhere within that process equating LGBTQ+ with 'not family friendly.' "

YouTuber NeonFiona posted side-by-side screenshots showing video titles that have the words "gay," "lesbian" and "bisexual" were blocked on Restricted Mode.

"Kids who want to know about different orientations and definitions and about the history of LGBT people, etc, they can't access that when their videos are being restricted," the vlogger told Gizmodo. "Restricting these videos makes it harder for these kids to find information they need and the community that they've been missing."

SeaineLove, a trans YouTuber, also tweeted that her video called "I Am Transgender" vanishes when Restricted Mode is turned on.

Speaking to Gizmodo, she said the clip is "pretty G-rated" and that she just wants her fans to watch the clip and "be able to watch my videos and go 'Hey, I feel the same way! That's how I am too! Wow, that inspires me to be myself!' "

Calum McSwiggan also made a video about his content being censored.

Google gave Gizmodo a statement, pointing out Restricted Mode is optional and that videos discussing sexuality may trigger the blocking.

"Restricted Mode is an optional feature used by a very small subset of users who want to have a more limited YouTube experience," the spokesperson told the wesbite. "Some videos that cover subjects like health, politics and sexuality may not appear for users and institutions that choose to use this feature."

YouTube later issued another statement on its YouTube Creators Twitter account, saying it's "looking into" the problem.

Gizmodo reports Elli's video now appears when Restricted Mode is turned on.

YouTube has celebrated LGBT videos in the past. In 2015 the site launched its #ProudToLove campaign.