YouTube Has Updated Restricted Mode to (Hopefully) Allow All-Ages LGBTQIA Content
At the end of March, YouTube came under fire for its implementation of Restricted Mode, a setting meant to shield younger viewers from mature or objectionable content. LGBTQIA creators discovered that their queer content—even when it was all-ages content, such as a same-sex wedding or a Tegan & Sara music video—was blocked under Restricted Mode.
Now, YouTube says they’ve identified and fixed the problem. In a statement on the YouTube Creator Blog, vice president of Product Management Johanna Wright wrote, “After a thorough investigation, we started making several improvements to Restricted Mode. On the engineering side, we fixed an issue that was incorrectly filtering videos for this feature, and now 12 million additional videos of all types— including hundreds of thousands featuring LGBTQ+ content—are available in Restricted Mode.”
YouTube also added a mechanism for creators and viewers to challenge a video’s automated categorization. There’s now a feedback form where users can report an incorrectly blocked video.
Wright’s post also clarified what is considered a “mature topic.” Unsurprisingly, videos that include lots of profanity or drug and alcohol use will not be available in Restricted Mode. “Educational, straightforward” sexual education videos may be viewable in Restricted Mode, but any “overly detailed conversations about sex or sexual activity” or music videos with “adult themes” won’t be. “Graphic depictions of violence, violent acts, natural disasters and tragedies” – even if they’re in the news – will be blocked. In addition, videos that cover events like terrorism or war will be blocked if they include “specific details” of the subject, “even if no graphic imagery is shown.”
I’m glad that YouTube took such relatively swift action on this. It isn’t easy to change a system-wide problem, particularly for content that’s as tricky as video, so this was a pretty solid turnaround time for a solution. However, the initial error provides yet another example of why we need more diverse staff at tech companies. It’s exactly the sort of oversight problem that’s easy to make when your staff is mostly straight and cis.
When companies mess up, we ask them to “do better.” For this particular problem, at least, it looks like YouTube’s done just that.
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