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YouTube tech error censored ‘hundreds of thousands’ of LGBT videos

Nick Duffy April 22, 2017

YouTube has blamed a tech issue for accidentally censoring “hundreds of thousands” of LGBT videos, including from the site’s biggest out content creators.

Controversy arose earlier this year over the site’s Restricted Mode feature, introduced by Google to “filter out potentially inappropriate content” for young people.

The option is intended to filter videos that are offensive or explicit, but some of the site’s biggest LGBT content creators spoke out after seemingly-innocuous videos about sexuality or sex education were flagged as restricted.

In a blog post this week, YouTube said the automated filters for restricted mode had wrongfully impacted “hundreds of thousands” of videos on LGBT issues.

Tyler Oakley
Gay vlogger Tyler Oakley had spoken out after some of his videos were blocked

The blog announced changes to the option, explaining: “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.”

It adds: “We also spent time over the last few weeks talking with creators and third-party organisations to better understand their experiences and questions.

“One thing we heard loud and clear was people’s desire to report videos they believed were being inappropriately excluded from Restricted Mode.

“Starting today, we’re providing a form to allow creators and viewers alike to give us feedback about this.

“We will use this input to help improve our automated system going forward.”

The site also published guidelines for restricted mode, which clarify: “While some educational, straightforward conversations about sexual education may be included in Restricted Mode, overly detailed conversations about sex or sexual activity will likely be removed.

“This is one of the more difficult topics to train our systems on, and context is key. If your music video features adult themes like sex or drug use, that video will likely not make it into Restricted Mode.”

Some of the site’s biggest creators previously spoke out after their videos were censored.

Tyler Oakley, one of the site’s biggest names, said previously: “One of my recent videos “8 Black LGBTQ+ Trailblazers Who Inspire Me” is blocked because of this.”

The site explained previously: “Our system sometimes make mistakes in understanding context and nuances when it assesses which videos to make available in Restricted Mode.

“For instance, the following videos are examples of where we got it wrong: Ash Hardell’s “Her Vows,” Calum McSwiggan’s “Coming Out To Grandma,” Jono and Ben’s “Woman interrupted during BBC interview,” and Tegan and Sara’s “BWU [OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO].”

“While the system will never be 100 percent perfect, we must and will do a better job.

“There’s nothing more important to us than being a platform where anyone can belong, have a voice and speak out when they believe something needs to be changed. We truly appreciate your help keeping the YouTube community active and engaged on topics that matter to creators and YouTube fans alike.”

More: Gay, LGBT, tech, US, video, YouTube

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