YouTube sued by LGBT+ channels over alleged discrimination

Bria Kam and Chrissy Chambers

Five prominent LGBT+ YouTube channels are suing the video site and its parent company Google for allegedly discriminating against queer content creators.

The group of YouTubers have accused the website of making it difficult for them to reach a wider audience, and of restricting their ability to make a living from their work.

According to the lawsuit, YouTube algorithms flag videos about LGBT+ issues as “shocking,” “inappropriate,” “offensive,” and “sexually explicit,” meaning that they are then demonetised, or made ineligible for paid advertising.

YouTube has also been accused of blocking LGBT+ creators from purchasing advertising on other videos, while allowing hate-filled videos to remain online and even advertise on LGBT+ channels.

None of these accusations are new, but this is the first time that they have been rounded up as part of a lawsuit.

YouTube ‘blocked advertising because of the gay thing’

Celso Dulay and Chris Knight of Glitter Bomb TV said that they first ran foul of YouTube’s alleged policies in 2016, when they tried to buy advertising for a special holiday edition of their show.

They said that a Google employee told them that their video had been flagged for explicit content because it discussed “the gay thing.”

“There’s nothing sexual about the show, it’s a news show,” Knight told Buzzfeed News.

Trans YouTuber said his videos are restricted

Chase Ross said that his videos are routinely demonetised or placed under a restricted filter because he is transgender.

“This is about making sure we’re not censored as a community,” Ross told Forbes.

A close-up of Chase Ross, a trans man with long blue hair

Chase Ross said his videos are routinely targeted. (Vimeo)

“I found YouTube at 15 and it saved my life. I hear from people every day that they want to make a channel, but they’re afraid of getting their content restricted. It really breaks my heart.”

I found YouTube at 15 and it saved my life.

Bria Kam and Chrissy Chambers told a similar story. They said that after their videos began to be demonetised and restricted, their revenue has fallen from $3,500 to just $500 a month.

“They are removing our thumbnails, they are not sending our videos out to our subscribers, they are removing subscribers. We are age gated and we are age restricted.” Kam told Buzzfeed.

Non-binary YouTuber said they faced hateful comments

Lindsay Amer, a non-binary YouTuber who runs the channel Queer Kids Stuff, said that YouTube allowed their comments to become filled with anti-LGBT+ hate.

Amer said they were eventually forced to disable comments entirely, which they say contributed to a fall in income.

The group’s lawyer Peter Obstler said that while Google is a private company, YouTube’s mission statement says it is run on the freedoms of expression, of information and of opportunity, as well as the freedom to belong.

He told Buzzfeed that the allegations amount to a breach of this contract and a “discriminatory application of their guidelines.”

“If they want to be a private company they should tell people, ‘we discriminate,'” he added.

YouTube spokesperson Alex Joseph told PinkNews that its policies “have no notion of sexual orientation or gender identity.”

“All content on our site is subject to the same policies,” Joseph said.

“Our systems do not restrict or demonetise 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.”