YouTube under fire over ‘homophobic’ adverts potentially targeting LGBT YouTubers

YouTube has been criticised for reportedly adding anti-gay adverts on videos from LGBT video-makers.

Following recent controversy about YouTube’s relationship with LGBT content on the site, several LGBT video creators have hit out at a stream of anti-LGBT adverts.

On Thursday, author Gaby Dunn asked her fans whether they had seen any anti-LGBT adverts before her videos, after being alerted by some viewers.

(@gabydunn / Twitter)

The bisexual writer wrote: “If you’re a fan of [Just Between Us], have you been seeing anti-gay ads before our videos? Some viewers just alerted me to this and other YouTubers are having this problem too.”

Multiple people responded to say they had seen a range of overtly anti-LGBT adverts on the channels of a number of LGBT creators, including Dodie Clark.

Related: YouTube admits it has a Neo-Nazi problem

The adverts reportedly range from ultra-conservative rants comparing being gay to abuse and paedophilia to political messages in support of anti-LGBT legislation.

One of the most criticised adverts comes from conservative radio host Michael Brown, whose two-minuite long advert condemns being gay using quotes from the bible.

After being told that the anti-LGBT adverts, including Brown’s, were being featured on his channel, transgender YouTube star Chase Ross hit out at the platform for allowing the adverts.

(@ChaseRoss / Twitter)

He wrote: “Why is YouTube taking money from these organisations?

He added: “I mean, technically that means anti-LGBT organizations are literally giving money to LGBT folk. Lol.”

Other viewers stated that adverts from the anti-gay law firm Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) had been spotted on videos made by LGBT people.

The notorious Christian group has opposed same-sex weddings, gay adoptions, civil unions, and even the repeal of Sodomy laws – strongly opposing the 2003 Supreme Court decision to strike down state laws banning gay sex.

In 2017, civil rights and extremism watchdog the Southern Poverty Law Center officially marked the ADF as an anti-LGBT hate group.

(Creative Commons)

The ADF videos reportedly feature the case of a florist who refused to serve a gay couple, who has since waged a lengthy legal battle over a discrimination case.

Dodie Clark, also known as doddleoddle on YouTube, hit out at the adverts and referenced recent allegations that YouTube removes adverts from LGBT+ content.

(@doddleoddle / Twitter)

The bisexual singer wrote: “How the actual f*** is YouTube automatically branding anything LGBTQ+ not suitable for advertising, and yet allowing anti-gay (anti-gay?!! What is this, the 1940s?!) adverts on our videos?!

“I mean that’s just plain and simple homophobia right?! The platform we use is homophobic?”

Queer YouTuber Rowan Ellis said that the adverts may be due to YouTube’s automated algorithm, which she described as “fundamentally flawed.”

Ellis told PinkNews: “I think one of the issues with this, and other LGBTQ+ based issues we’ve seen on YouTube in the past, is the fact we don’t know. We can infer, and suspect, but ultimately we don’t know from the “outside” how these decisions are made, and who made them.

(Creative Commons)

“I suspect that the approval of ads and the distribution of them to videos is done largely without direct human input via methods that might include machine learning and set programmes.”

She added: “This means no one person may have pressed the ‘okay’ button on these ads, but YouTube’s system, whatever that might be, is fundamentally flawed by allowing these adverts in the first places and then putting them in front of content whose audience is often young, vulnerable people searching for representation.”

( Provided / Rebecca Shoptaw )

Ellis then criticised the adverts for the impact they could have on the audiences, particularly young and more vulnerable people.

She said: “These are particularly damaging when run on videos from LGBTQ+ creators because the type of audience we draw is often young, vulnerable, or questioning people. To come to a video you think will be affirming, and have to sit through someone telling you are wrong and sinful to do it, is unbelievably damaging.

“Every LGBTQ+ YouTuber I know has had messages from people who tell them their videos helped them understand who they are, helped them come out, helped keep them going through the darkest times in their lives, literally saved their lives.

“And then, instead of seeing these videos they want and need to see, they are met with adverts like this? You can’t measure the devastation of that impact.”

In a statement to PinkNews, a YouTube spokesperson stated: “We do not have a list of LGBTQ+ related words that trigger demonetisation, and we are constantly evaluating our systems to ensure they are enforcing our policies without bias.

“We use machine learning to evaluate content against our advertiser guidelines. Sometimes our systems get it wrong, which is why we’ve encouraged creators to appeal. Successful appeals ensure that our systems keep getting better.”