You Tube’s New Filter Option Stirs Controversy

You Tube’s new content filter has many content creators concerned, as some entire channels become invisible with the filter. Did You Tube censor LGBT channels?

You Tube’s new optional filter is causing some controversy among users of the video service, following a weekend that saw channel creators discovering that many of their videos were unavailable to users when the filter was turned on. Members of the LGBT community, especially content creators with established channels, complained online about the filtering, characterizing it as censorship of discussion of LGBT issues. The filtering option went live a while ago, but it wasn’t until late last week that video creators in the LGBT community realized their content was being blocked by the filters. Some users’ entire channels became invisible once the filter was switched on.  Gaming channels also seemed to be hit hard by the filtering mode, depending upon how the videos were tagged.

You Tube responded Sunday evening, saying that the company was looking into users’ concerns, and that ‘The intention of Restricted Mode is to filter out mature content for the tiny subset of users who want a more limited experience.’ This raised more questions with many channel creators, who responded to the statement via Twitter.

Hank Green of the Vlog Brothers channel, which has about 3 million subscribers, tweeted his advice: ‘Step 1: Agree that there is a problem. Step 2: Suspend the program. Step 3: Thank creators for discovering this problem.’

Shane Dawson, another You Tube creator with nearly 8 million subscribers, was surprised to find his entire channel invisible in Restricted Mode: ‘How is my ENTIRE channel blocked then? And why is my coming out video gone? And Tyler Oakley’s videos are so clean and they’re gone too.’ He added: ‘I just think it’s dumb to even offer “restriction mode” @YouTube. People aren’t dumb. If they don’t want to watch something they won’t.’

Shane referenced Tyler Oakley, host of a channel boasting over 8 million subscribers and videos with views in the hundreds of thousands each week. Tyler had this to add: ‘Still not fixed. One of my recent videos “8 Black LGBTQ+ Trailblazers Who Inspire Me” is blocked because of this. I’m perplexed, @YouTube.’ He followed up with a recommendation to users and content creators: ‘Until we hear back from @youtube, please actively check on all LGBTQ+ creators you’re subscribed to & continue to support their content.’ Others charged You Tube with designing the filter not for users, but for advertisers, so the company could maximize revenue opportunities at the expense of the content creators.

Philip DeFranco, host of the Philip DeFranco Show on his channel with over 5 million subscribers, discussed the issue on his daily news show after discovering his entire channel also was invisible in restricted mode. Phil addressed the You Tube change and offered his advice: ‘I just think this is classic You Tube handling this in the worst possible way…If you’re rating our channels as kid-friendly, teen-friendly, or mature, why not just let us know where we’re ranked. Let us know what content we put out that got us there.’

You Tube responded to the continued criticisms on Monday with a statement on their Creator Blog.  ‘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. The bottom line is that this feature isn’t working the way it should. We’re sorry and we’re going to fix it.’  But as the criticisms indicate, many creators don’t have faith in You Tube’s transparency based on how they have handled past issues with channel owners.

The filter comes as an active opt-in rather than a default, but the change itself, and the binary on/off limited options, concerns creators of all kinds across the platform. The very size of the You Tube universe requires some measure of automation in handling content curation, but creators don’t believe the process is as transparent as it should be. This has been a steady complaint among channel owners in recent years. As You Tube has grown and helped create careers and businesses for enterprising video creators, it has also demonstrated its power to affect those careers, as well as its power to affect creators’ incomes. While it may not technically be censorship, the systems in place to direct filtering will shape how You Tubers create and share their content, and they believe they deserve as much information about the process as possible.