Social media censorship on LGBTQ issues still problematic

Gabriella Pinos/ Contributing Writer

Last year, YouTube receive a lot of backlash from the LGBTQ+ community when it began to restrict content related to gay rights. A year after the issues were first brought up, YouTube has only dug a deeper grave, as many videos — especially those from LGBTQ+ creators — continue to be restricted and demonetized.

In March 2017, the video sharing site was criticized for censoring LGBTQ+ videos from its Restricted Mode, which is used to filter out mature content that a user may not want to see. This means that if someone wanted to look up LGBTQ+ videos on YouTube with Restricted Mode on, many results would be hidden because of their “mature” content.

Creators, such as Tyler Oakley, had their videos flagged as inappropriate for children, even if the video itself had no adult themes present.

Despite the backlash, the site’s automated system still restricts LGBTQ-related content. What’s more, flagged videos are considered unsuitable for advertisements based on YouTube’s new guidelines, cutting creators off from their source of income. As a result, many LGBTQ+ creators have been forced to leave the site or find other methods of payment.

Not only is it insulting to LGBTQ creators to have their videos demonetized and blocked from search results, it’s frustrating to hear that the site would silence their voices. YouTube is currently the second most popular website in the world, second to Google, according to Thus, it should be a beacon for free speech and diversity when it comes to discussing sexual orientation.

But by considering these topics to be controversial and inappropriate, YouTube is only driving more people away from it.

What’s most concerning is the influence these restrictions have on LGBTQ youth that look up to Internet personalities. Many kids see them as role models and their online community as a place where they can be themselves without fear of judgement. Choosing which communities are safer for kids prevents them from finding a place online they can call home.

This censorship of LGBTQ-related content hasn’t just been limited to YouTube in the past year though. In November 2017, Twitter experienced a similar incident, where LGBTQ-related hashtags showed no results when searched for.

Like YouTube, its system used algorithms to detect adult content, this time by analyzing a list of inappropriate words and blocks them from search results. After the issue was fixed, Twitter explained that the block was an error in their adult content filters, where words such as “gay” and “bisexual” were considered explicit.

It’s troubling that on both platforms, these words would be inappropriate, especially in an era where they have been normalized by our culture. Most people, including LGBTQ+ creators, use gay and bisexual as a form of pride and self-expression, and the assumption that they’re always used in a negative connotation is ridiculous.

Context is key, but unfortunately, an algorithm can’t tell the difference between homophobic content and a tweet celebrating gay pride.

While there have been improvements in both systems since 2017, these’s still LGBTQ+ content that’s blocked on YouTube’s Restricted Mode. Its algorithm continues to be a problem for LGBTQ creators, a problem that has been expressed by personalities inside and outside the community.

Improving the system in place would be the next step towards a solution, and having real people watch and determine the intentions of a video would be ideal. So as we wait for YouTube to get its act together, let’s remember that social media is for people of all orientations to share their perspectives, no matter how inappropriate a flawed system may think they are.



The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of Panther Press Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.


Photo by Christian Wiediger on Unsplash.

Be the first to comment on "Social media censorship on LGBTQ issues still problematic"

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.