Two prominent UK LGBTQ YouTube stars have called for better action and improved tools from Google in the wake of LGBTQ videos and channels being rendered invisible in the video platform's Restricted Mode.
Rosie Spaughton and Rose Ellen Dix were speaking at Ad Week Europe on how the visibility that YouTube provides can be a powerful tool for LGBTQ creators and audiences, especially young people. However, after it was revealed earlier this week that YouTube's Restricted Mode, which is intended to filter out 'mature content', was also filtering out LGBTQ videos and channels even when they were family-friendly, the audience was keen to hear their thoughts on this news.
"I think that there's definitately a need for a filter, and the filter has been around for a long while," said Rosie Spaughton, whose channel boasts over 300,000 subscribers. "You're meant to be at least 13 [to register on YouTube] but you can easily enter the wrong age. I know kids who are as young as five who have profiles."
Asked if they thought that Google and YouTube were doing enough to protect LGBTQ YouTubers and their channels, and ensure they were not unfairly discriminated against, Rose Ellen Dix, who has over 600,000 subscribers, said "I don't think it's fast enough. They need to realise that if they're making changes to the algorithms that govern these things, and they do make big changes, it has a huge impact on people who are making videos and those that are looking for them.
"Why was this sort of thing not tested? The Restricted Mode has been around for several years, so how did the engineers who built it not realise that it was affecting videos this way? They need to test it more thoroughly before they roll these sort of changes out."
The pair, who are married and host a gaming channel on YouTube with around 100,000 followers in addition to their individual accounts, also spoke about how being part of the LGBTQ community had resulted in both positive and negative impacts on their YouTube career, affecting things like their chance of establishing brand deals for content marketing.
"I think it's maybe prevented us from becoming mainstream," said Spaughton. "You look at people like Zoella or Tanya Burr, it's easier for them to find a huge audience, but I think, if I can say this, our audience is better. We have more sense of community. Talking about the issues we face has brought us closer to our audience."
Despite the reputation that YouTube comment sections have, the pair said that they had experienced relatively little in terms of abuse or 'trolling', and in fact the majority of abuse they had faced had been via Instagram. They praised YouTube's comment moderation and filtering tools for helping them maintain a positive and engaged community.
YouTube has promised to review the process used to hide videos in Restricted Mode, and has already made a number of the LGBTQ videos unfairly hidden by the feature available again.
"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," said a YouTube spokesperson in a post on the issue. "The bottom line is that this feature isn’t working the way it should. We’re sorry and we’re going to fix it."