This week, YouTube creators and fans noticed a change to the content they make and watch on the social media platform. Videos containing titles and content related to LGBTQA+ subjects are being blocked. This is due to YouTube’s “Restricted Mode”, a feature created to allow viewing for children and young people to be “family friendly”. Thus, videos containing LGBTQA+ themes have been removed from subscription boxes for viewers eighteen and under, or whoever has the feature enabled. Immediate uproar ensued, even spawning the hashtag #YouTubeIsOverParty.
— tyler oakley (@tyleroakley) March 19, 2017
— emily (@starryvenom) March 18, 2017
— Kat (@kat_katayama) March 20, 2017
In response to the backlash received from this update, YouTube published a statement through their “@” account:
A message to our community … pic.twitter.com/oHNiiI7CVs
— YouTube Creators (@ytcreators) March 20, 2017
However, this response has been deemed quite frankly less than acceptable. The suggestion that this feature is to “filter out mature content” goes hand in hand with the notion that being queer is inappropriate, and too x-rated for anyone under the age of eighteen. The sexualisation of the LGBTQA+ community has a long history and is still under the means of resolution. From queer sex education being left out of the curriculum, to recent uproar towards Disney featuring a same sex kisses in cartoon “Star vs. the Forces of Evil” or having an openly gay character in the live action “Beauty & The Beast”, it is clear that queer romance and relationships are considered taboo for young people.
Why is this? It is very valid to argue that queer relationships are still deemed too promiscuous for children and young people, hence why YouTube have dubbed this restriction issue down to “mature content”. However, videos blocked include innocent content concerning queer attraction, coming out videos, and educational videos concerning gender and sexuality, none of the above being taboo or containing explicit material. Creator Rowan Ellis expands on this topic in her video in response to the blocked content, and put into words why this censorship is so dangerous for queer youth:
“People talk about it being for protecting children. For me it’s this completely nonsensical idea that has no basis in reality around protecting specifically straight and cis children, or children from straight and cis families. It does nothing to protect queer and trans children“.
With heteronormative mediums constantly sexualising youth in mainstream media, let alone YouTube, without being blocked or deemed “mature content”, this is frankly a issue that can be whittled down to homophobia/transphobia and the othering of the queer community. With the rise of social media as generations get younger, more and more children and young people will reach out to platforms like YouTube to educate themselves on topics they may not feel safe enough to discuss and explore elsewhere. Creator Beckii Cruel commented on the subject for us, stating:
“I’m never one to quickly judge a situation, but I did my own research on the topic and I found that videos about not only queer subjects, but also alcoholism and sexual abuse, were all unavailable in ‘Restricted’ mode. I know how important the internet has been for my own journey of self-discovery with regards to my sexual identity, and had those videos been hidden from me when I was growing up, I can’t imagine how else I could have found the information that I needed. It’s absolutely shocking that simple terms like ‘gay’ seem to have been blacklisted and deemed as inappropriate for children. This is objectively homophobic, and I hope YouTube realise the severity of what they are doing“.
Overall, having the existence of queer people being censored for younger audiences is on the same wavelength as perpetuating the community as perverse entirely. Regardless of their apology or not, YouTube allowing this to happen is part of the problem. You don’t get to parade about your Gigi Gorgeous documentary commercial during the Super Bowl and then do this. You can’t pick and choose when to support us just when it profits you. Perhaps next you can force users from the LGBTQA+ community to change their usernames since that worked out so well for Facebook?
The hetereonorm is a dangerous mindset, especially for queer young people exploring and discovering their gender and sexuality. Be loud. Be upset. Be angry. Do and say everything you can until YouTube listens to it’s creators and audience and changes this “Restriction”. The existence of LGBTQA+ people is not “mature content”.