Directors of operations at YouTube have recently made updates to their methods of video filtering. On Monday, March 20, The Advocate reported that the company had updated the categories of videos that would be blocked in Restricted Mode, mainly targeting LGBT content and users. These restrictions came as a shock to the YouTube community, a place of openness for the content that is allowed to be posted, and for its users, who take comfort and entertainment from the now banned videos.
To a certain degree, YouTube’s attempt at censorship is understandable. Censorship has a place in society, and its role and utilization is valid, especially when it comes to content children are being exposed to. However, censorship is a very individual thing; one overarching power can’t decide what’s appropriate and what isn’t for everyone. In this case, YouTube can’t make the executive and conservative decision that the majority of LGBT content should be censored for viewers under 18. If parents are concerned about what their children are watching, they need to set those parameters themselves and monitor their children more closely until they feel they can trust them to be on the internet by themselves.
By withholding certain videos from being viewed by kids, YouTube is being extremely hypocritical. They’re perfectly okay with widely plastering ads for “Fifty Shades Darker” for multiple weeks all over their site where anyone can see them, but they want to censor content where the YouTuber themselves is LGBT? Why is a sexually abusive heterosexual relationship allowed to be openly consumed and pushed down the throats of millions of viewers, but a same-sex couple talking about their wedding isn’t appropriate? Society has always been heteronormative and the effects of that are clear in how heterosexual couples and their relationships are held up as the goal for others to aspire to. But with this freeness of YouTube, users and viewers alike have been able to carve out a place that differs from those values.
Which is why this move from YouTube honestly comes as a shock to me; ever since there started to be more vloggers on the site, I’ve viewed it as an incredibly useful and open platform. Anyone can go on there and post a video about whatever issue is near and dear to their hearts, and until now, there wasn’t a limit to that. This was something that made YouTube such an exciting place of expression, where a diversity of content and perspectives could be shared from anywhere to anywhere. While this is still mostly true, these new stipulations silence a notable population currently producing content for the site.
These restrictions not only hurt YouTubers producing LGBT content or who are LGBT themselves, but they also hurt viewers looking for that content. The internet, as cheesy as it can be to say, has a way of connecting people to those similar to themselves in ways that they wouldn’t have found in their everyday lives. This is especially true for younger people, who haven’t had the chance to leave home and meet people different from those they’re surrounded by in their communities close to home. By having a diverse population of LGBT creators to look to, who are confident in their identities and have found success on the platform, LGBT youth find comfort and support where there might otherwise be none. The restrictions come as a further shock to me due to the fact that some of the best known names of YouTube are openly and proudly LGBT; Tyler Oakley, Connor Franta, Troye Sivan, and Hannah Hart are but a few of the popular users whose content will all but disappear with the new limits.
Moving forward, YouTube needs to acknowledge the major community they house and pay them the respect they deserve. LGBT stories and people don’t deserve the erasure of their identities in a space where they should be allowed to be themselves without shame. In the words of Tyler Oakley, “Oops! You did this wrong. How to fix this: admit you messed up, apologize without excuses, immediately stop enforcing the ineffective policy.”