A group of YouTube makers are suing YouTube for alleged discrimination against their LGBTQ-targeted videos by suppressing recommendations and making it difficult to earn advertising revenue.
The lawsuit alleges that YouTube "uses illegal content regulation, distribution, and revenue-generating methods that stigmatize, restrict, block, demonize, and financially harm LGBT claimants and the larger LGBT community." human reviewers mistakenly focus on channels with words like & # 39; gay & # 39 ;, & # 39; bisexual & # 39; or & # 39; transgender & # 39; in the title.
"YouTube engages in discriminatory, anti-competitive, and unlawful conduct that damages a protected group of individuals under California law," said the lawsuit. It claims that YouTube's actions have violated federal and Californian laws regarding speech, discrimination, and fake ads.
The complainants – including Brett Somers, Lindsay Amer, Chris Knight, Celso Dulay, Cameron Stiehl, Chrissy Chambers and Chase Ross – have spoken of the alleged treatment of YouTube by the LGBTQ maker community in the past. In June 2018, Ross accused YouTube of aging and demonizing his video & # 39; s simply because he used the term & # 39; transgender & # 39; used in his video titles and metadata. The alleged discrimination against YouTube has led Ross to publish a long video about the subject.
"I don't feel that people take us seriously and that this must change," Ross said The edge at the time. "YouTube should really pay attention to this community … I don't feel like I belong on a platform that I and other LGBTQ + people have helped build."
YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki said last week that YouTube does not automatically demonize LGBTQ content.
"There is no policy that says:" If you put certain words in a title that will be demonized. ", Wojcicki told vlogger Alfie Deyes." We work incredibly hard to ensure that when our machines learn something – because many of our decisions are made algorithmically – our machines are fair. There shouldn't be any (automatic demonetization). "
Wojcicki also said that two of YouTube & # 39; s largest moderation tools, one that focuses on recommending video & # 39; s and the other that determines if a video is suitable for advertising, work independently. The systems, Wojcicki added, are set up separately to ensure that the "systems are fair."
Yet Wojcicki's comments come after years of frustration from the LGBTQ community. Many makers expressed concern about the company in 2017 and argued that their content was apparently hidden and demonetized. Just a few months later, YouTube found itself in another controversy after anti-LGBTQ ads started appearing on videos from LGBTQ makers.
YouTube was recently embroiled in a controversy after the company allowed conservative expert Steven Crowder to continue uploading videos despite using its channel to make homophobic comments against Vox journalist Carlos Maza in June. Despite finding language that "was clearly painful, the published video & # 39; s did not violate our policies," the company tweeted a few days after Maza published its case on Twitter. (Disclosure: Vox is a publication of Vox Media, which is also the owner The edge.)
"As an open platform, it's crucial that we let everyone – from makers to journalists to late TV hosts – hear their opinions as part of our policy," read tweets from YouTube. "Opinions can be very offensive, but if they don't violate our policies, they will stay on our site."
YouTube has revoked advertising rights on the Crowder channel, but the LGBTQ community – both on YouTube and within Google, YouTube's parent company – felt that executives were not doing enough. Wojcicki later apologized for the community in an interview with RecodePeter Kafka at the code conference. (Disclosure: Recode is a publication of Vox Media, which is also the owner The edge.)
Since I started working at Vox, Steven Crowder makes video after video "debunking". Each video contains repeated, overt attacks on my sexual orientation and ethnicity. Here is an example: pic.twitter.com/UReCcQ2Elj
– Carlos Maza (@gaywonk) May 31, 2019
"I'm really sorry," said Wojcicki. "YouTube has always been a home for so many LGBTQ makers, and that's why it was so emotional … We have always wanted to support this community openly."
The makers of the lawsuit believe that YouTube has not lived up to the words of support. The lawsuit states that YouTube control and regulation of speech has resulted in a chaotic cesspit in which popular, compliant, high-quality, and protected LGBTQ + content is limited, stigmatized, and demonized as & # 39; shocking & # 39;, & # 39; inappropriate & # 39 ;, offensive, & # 39; and & # 39; sexually explicit & # 39 ;, while homophobic and racist hatreds run wild and are free to post mean and obscene content. "
The edge has contacted YouTube for comment on the lawsuit.