YouTube Filtering Draws Ire of Gay and Transgender Creators



Gigi Gorgeous in 2016. She stars in a YouTube-produced documentary about her transition, and has recently criticized YouTube for the effect its parental-control setting has on L.G.B.T. content.

Emily Berl for The New York Times

YouTube said on Sunday that it was investigating the simmering complaints by some users that its family-friendly “restricted mode” wrongly filters out some lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender videos.

The statement came after the video-hosting platform faced growing pressure over the weekend from some of its biggest stars to address the issue.

In a statement, YouTube said that many videos featuring lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender content were unaffected by the filter, an optional parental-control setting, and that it only targeted those that discussed sensitive topics such as politics, health and sexuality.

But some of the video creators disagreed, pointing to blocked content that they argued were suitable for children of any age and did not discuss such subjects. They also said that the filtering shields lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender children from the resources and support the videos can provide.

In a statement, YouTube described restricted mode as “an optional feature used by a very small subset of users who want to have a more limited YouTube experience.”

Restricted mode relies on “community flagging, age-restrictions, and other signals” to identify which videos to filter, according to an official description. In a company video describing the feature, a YouTube presenter notes that the system is “not 100 percent accurate.”

YouTube posted a statement on Twitter on Sunday night saying that it was “so proud” to host L.G.B.T. voices and that it was “looking into your concerns.”

But some considered the response insufficient.

Stef Sanjati, who shares videos about transgender issues and her own transition, said the statement fell short.

Jenna Marbles, who with 17 million subscribers is among YouTube’s most popular stars, responded with incredulity to the site’s claim that only a small subset of users enable restricted mode.

The filtering issue was highlighted in a video on Thursday by British user Rowan Ellis, who suggested that YouTube’s restricted mode appeared to have “some kind of targeted effect” for L.G.B.T. individuals.

Over the weekend, many video creators and users complained on Twitter, recycling the hashtag #YouTubeIsOverParty, which was trending worldwide by Sunday night.

“YouTube has always been a place where you can find someone just like you,” Gigi Lazzarato, a transgender YouTube star better known as Gigi Gorgeous, said in a video encouraging the company to address the issue.

Ms. Lazzarato, who stars in a YouTube-produced documentary about her transition and who posted the video before YouTube issued its Twitter statement, noted that many of the videos in which she discusses her transition are blocked under restricted mode. Such content can be educational for children struggling with their own gender identity, she said.

“That video might be the ultimate tipping point for them, in their transition,” she said.

#ProudToBeRestricted | Gigi Video by Gigi Gorgeous

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