YouTube comes under criticism for 'demonetising queer content'

Moya Lothian-McLean
Getty Images

A group of content creators have claimed that YouTube is systematically penalizing queer content on the site.

YouTube has an automatic demonetisation system which prevents adverts being shown on certain clips and means creators can’t earn revenue from them.

The collective say this system disproportionately affects videos with LGBTQ-related vocabulary in the titles.

The group of four, whose members identify themselves only by their YouTube handles but include a data researcher among their number, studied tested YouTube’s algorithm over months.

In a written report and video posted to YouTube, they concluded that the site’s automatic system for flagging content for demonetisation frequently targets LGBTQ vocabulary.

33 per cent of 100 videos with queer content in the titles that were tested were demonetized by YouTube.

Titles that were demonetised included “LGBT Tik Tok Compilation in Honor of Pride Month” and “Top 10 Lesbian Couples in Hollywood Who Got Married”.

The group also discovered that YouTube’s bot automatically re-monetized videos when the triggering LGBTQ vocabulary in the title was replaced with the words “friend” and “happy”.

In response, a YouTube spokesperson denied the existence of specific lists of queer vocabulary that triggers demonetisation and said their algorithm is “constantly [evaluated]” in order to ensure bots don’t reflect any unfair bias.

However, the group say that their exhaustive research project - which includes a list of words and specific titles that triggered demonetisation - proves otherwise.

“It’s very hard to tell how often the [algorithm] gets retrained/updated,” content creator and project researcher Sealow told Vox.

“But the thing that can be expected is that unless YouTube make[s] larger changes to the model as a whole, most results remain mostly the same."

In a direct tweet to one of the collective, YouTube acknowledged the claims.

"Wanted to let you know that we’ve watched your video and the right teams are reviewing your concerns in detail," they wrote.

"We want to make sure that we give you some clear answers, so we’ll follow back up when the teams have been able to take a good, hard look."

Read more

YouTube deactivates "pick-up artist" channels after investigation

list of words

specific titles

Vox