Lawsuit Alleges 12 Ways YouTube Discriminates Against LGBTQ Content Creators
It’s a typical complaint against YouTube by LGBTQ content creators, commenters and publishers: “Why is my content being treated differently?” The video-sharing site has a history of filtering videos with LGBTQ content into its “restricted mode,” disallowing queer content creators from monetizing their original content, and even displaying anti-LGBTQ advertisements before the videos of LGBTQ creators. But now a group of content creators have taken the platform and its owner Google to court. On Tuesday, June 2, the YouTube LGBTQ discrimination lawsuit had its first hearing before a judge in San Jose, California, and the plaintiffs’ hopes are high that the case will move forward.
Oddly enough (but perhaps not given the current occupant of the White House) the U.S. Justice Department itself has weighed in on this case, defending the same piece of 1996 law — Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which says technology platforms cannot be sued for content posted by users — that Donald Trump railed against just last week in an executive order following a childish spat with Twitter.
The Justice Department has urged the court not to declare Section 230 unconstitutional, despite the plaintiffs in this YouTube LGBTQ discrimination lawsuit claiming it allows the site to violate their rights.
Brought by the media company Divino Group, which produces video content for the LGBTQ community, the case alleges that YouTube “holds itself out as a quintessential forum for freedom of expression,” but “[flouts] the fundamental ‘free expression’ bargain they made with YouTubers.’
The lawsuit’s complaint alleges a full-fledged “tool kit of unlawful speech suppression” that includes 12 different actions by YouTube:
In 2017, as the lawsuit points out, YouTube was caught improperly censoring LGBTQ video content and the platform rightly fessed up (though it blamed a purported engineering problem with filtering tools). YouTube was filtering certain video content into its Restricted Mode not based on the videos’ content but by the identity and orientation of the speaker and/or creator. Shortly thereafter, YouTube said it had “uncensored LGBTQ content” by reviewing those problematic policies and algorithms.
But the lawsuit alleges that YouTube’s promise to treat LGBTQ content fairly was a false one, and that the platform continued to discriminate against videos with LGBTQ subject matter and by LGBTQ creators, specifically the plaintiffs of this lawsuit. Videos with gay subject matter that did not in actuality violate the platform’s terms of service were deemed “shocking” and “sexually explicit.”
All 14 plaintiffs of this YouTube LGBTQ discrimination lawsuit have their own stories about how the platform discriminated against them and their content for the sole reason they are LGBTQ individuals. In the suit, these content creators are demanding YouTube “cease and desist from capriciously restricting, demonetizing, or otherwise censoring” their LGBTQ content, and they seek damages to be ascertained at trial.
Hornet will be updating this story about the YouTube LGBTQ discrimination lawsuit when more info is available.
Lead image courtesy Oscar Wong / Getty Images