YouTube apologises after ‘Restricted Mode’ blocks LGBTQ videos

Tim Maytom
The video for Tegan and Sara's "BWU", one of the videos blocked in error

YouTube has released a statement apologising for ‘confusion’ over its Restricted Mode and promising to address concerns after videos on LGBTQ topics like dating and attraction were hidden despite containing no explicit material.

Restricted Mode is a setting that is switched off by default, and aims to filter out ‘more mature content’. It was introduced back in 2010 as an optional feature designed to help institutions like schools, as well as parents who wanted to better control the content their children saw on YouTube. It was designed to “broadly restrict content across more mature topics”, and is used on around 1.5 per cent of YouTube’s daily views.

However, the feature has faced growing criticism after it emerged that a disproportionate number of videos on LGBTQ topics were being hidden while in the mode, even when content is family-friendly, with some YouTube creators saying their videos are automatically flagged in the system.

Prominent LGBTQ creators have spoken out against the process. Tyler Oakley said he was “perplexed” why some of his recent videos were being blocked, while Hannah Hart said that restricted mode “blocks users from videos about basic mental health”. Singers Tegan and Sara also tweeted about the feature after some of their music videos had disappeared from view, saying they were “looking forward to YouTube fixing this restricted content issue”.

YouTube initially addressed concerns through its YouTube Creators Twitter account, tweeting out a statement that said “The intention of Restricted Mode is to filter out mature content for the tiny subset of users who want a more limited experience. LGBTQ+ videos are available in Restricted Mode, but videos that discuss more sensitive issues may not be. We regret any confusion this has caused and are looking into your concerns.”

However, this statement was criticised for not truly addressing concerns and failing to listen to the points raised by those calling for changes. YouTube later posted a more comprehensive statement on its Creators blog which said “the bottom line is that this feature isn’t working the way it should. We’re sorry and we’re going to fix it.”

“Classifying lesbian, gay, bi and trans content on its site as ‘objectionable’ sends a damaging message to all YouTube users,” said a spokesperson for LGBTQ charity Stonewall. “Restricting this content implies that LGBT issues cannot be ‘family-friendly’ or age appropriate, which is worrying, as young LGBT people often look online to source information and look for support from their peers.”