YouTube and its parent company Google are being sued by various LGBTQ video-makers claiming that the video-sharing site discriminates against LGBTQ content and creators, reported the BBC. The group is claiming that YouTube specifically targets LGBTQ videos to reduce their visibility and advertising.
The federal lawsuit, filed Tuesday night in California, alleges that the video-streaming site enforces its policies unfairly and restricts LGBTQ videos from selling advertising while culling subscribers to creators’ channels. They also point out that producers with large audiences are given a pass even if their content is hostile to gay, lesbian, or other communities.
The video creators behind the lawsuit include singer Bria Kam and actor Chrissy Chambers, who run a joint YouTube channel; Amp Somers, who produces sex education videos; Chase Ross, who makes videos about his experiences as a transgender man, and Lindsay Amer, who aims to educate the public by producing LGBTQ-themed educational videos.
Among the claims laid out in the lawsuit are that YouTube doesn’t do enough to limit hate speech in the comments section of LGBTQ videos, removes advertising from videos that include the words “gay” or “lesbian,” and labels LGBTQ-themed videos as “mature” or “sensitive” and doesn’t allow them to be shown in search results or recommendations.
In response to the lawsuit, YouTube spokesman Alex Joseph said that the website does not discriminate against LGBTQ content.
“Our policies have no notion of sexual orientation or gender identity and our systems do not restrict or demonetize videos based on these factors or the inclusion of terms like ‘gay’ or ‘transgender.'”
“In addition, we have strong policies prohibiting hate speech and we quickly remove content that violates our policies and terminate accounts that do so repeatedly,” Joseph added.
While the site’s policies do not prohibit LGBTQ-related content and discussions, videos including the themes of sexual experiences, sex toys and devices, and fetishes are not allowed to carry ads.
YouTube did admit that their automated system is capable of making mistakes when it comes to deciding which videos to remove from advertising but added that if a video creator believes that their video was removed unfairly, they are allowed to appeal it.
The lawsuit argues that YouTube relies heavily on algorithms to determine ad-placement and content moderation, which can often end up ignoring the subtle nuances of human experience.
If the group is able to get their lawsuit in front of a jury, YouTube may be pressured and/or forced to change the way they make ad-placement and content decisions, including providing detailed information about how their algorithms work.