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LGBTQ YouTubers are suing the company, which is owned by Google, claiming YouTube suppresses their content. The suit alleges the site regularly culls subscriber lists for LGBTQ creators, affecting their ability to sell advertising, which is the primary way to monetize content on YouTube. With almost 2 billion monthly viewers, YouTube is by far the world’s largest video streaming site. The lawsuit was filed in federal court on Tuesday August 13, as originally reported by The Washington Post.
Led by five LGBTQ creators, the suit claims YouTube engages in “unlawful content regulation, distribution, and monetization practices that stigmatize, restrict, block, demonetize, and financially harm the LGBT Plaintiffs and the greater LGBT Community.”
YouTube spokesperson Alex Joseph responded to requests for comment with this emailed statement:
We’re proud that so many LGBTQ creators have chosen YouTube as a place to share their stories and build community. All content on our site is subject to the same policies. Our policies have no notion of sexual orientation or gender identity and our systems do not restrict or demonetize 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.– YouTube spokesperson Alex Joseph
The lawsuit alleges that YouTube regularly labels LGBTQ videos as offensive or sexually explicit because of the creators’ sexual orientation. It also claims that LGBTQ videos are regularly demonetized, that YouTube changes their thumbnail images, and excludes them from content recommendations, resulting in decreased viewing numbers.
In addition, the creators claim that YouTube does not apply the same standards to content that is openly hostile to the LGBTQ community.
“By controlling an estimated 95 percent of the public video communications that occur in the world, Google and YouTube wield unparalleled power and unfettered discretion to apply viewpoint-based content policies in a way that permits them to pick winners and losers,” said lead attorney for the plaintiffs Peter Obstler.
The lawsuit comes hot on the heels of a controversy surrounding YouTube’s poor handling of homophobic speech on the platform. YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki apologized at the time for the way it handled the case, which involved incendiary comments made by far-right YouTube commentator Steven Crowder against gay Vox journalist Carlos Maza.