LGBTQ creators are suing YouTube and its parent company, Google, alleging the video platform discriminated against them by unfairly applying its policies in a way that restricts queer content from making money and being seen by a wide audience.
The lawsuit alleges that YouTube’s policies are not applied evenly across content, allowing LGBTQ content to be marked as “shocking” and “sexually explicit” and hate speech to remain on the platform.
YouTube deploys “unlawful content regulation, distribution, and monetization practices that stigmatize, restrict, block, demonetize, and financially harm the LGBTQ+ Plaintiffs and the greater LGBTQ+ Community,” the suit says.
The class-action suit — meaning plaintiffs with similar complaints are included, and can join on — is being brought on by eight YouTubers who say they have been affected by the platform’s practices.
One of the plaintiffs alleges a Google employee explicitly told them they weren’t able to purchase an ad because it was about LGBTQ issues. Celso Dulay and Chris Knight, who produce a talk show called “GNews!,” say they tried to buy an ad on YouTube to promote a Christmastime show they had published.
However, YouTube rejected the ad because of “shocking content.” When Dulay and Knight tried to dispute YouTube’s decision, a content regulator allegedly told the two that their ad was likely rejected because of the “gay thing.”
A recording of Dulay and Knight’s conversation with Google AdWords has been made available on Dropbox.
“So many people have demanded change, have been shut out, and have went on to pursue other careers,” Bria Kam, one-half of the YouTube couple Bria and Chrissy, told Business Insider. “We kind of feel hopeless at this point … We want systematic change.”
Bria and Chrissy say the effect of YouTube’s policies have meant the married couple is no longer able to make a living creating videos. The pair used to bring in 5 million views and $3,500 to $4,000 a month with their YouTube channel. But for the past two years, the couple’s revenue has shrunk to $400 to $500 a month.
YouTube did not respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.
With more than 500 hours of video being uploaded to the Google-owned platform each minute, YouTube has become one of the biggest places online for people to consume content.
The suit alleges that YouTube’s policies that determine which videos are eligible for ads and monetization unfairly target LGBTQ content. YouTube says that its artificial-intelligence system used to regulate content is “viewpoint-neutral,” but the suit says the algorithms are applied to the identity of the video creator instead of the content itself.
Many YouTubers have long insisted that these algorithms are programmed to demonetize and restrict videos with LGBTQ-related terms and content in them. This has something that YouTube has repeatedly denied: CEO Susan Wojcicki said in a recent interview that YouTube does not “automatically demonetize LGBTQ content,” and insisted there “shouldn’t be” words that cause instant demonetization.
However, one of the plaintiffs in the suit, YouTuber Chase Ross, alleges that his experiences have proved otherwise. In the lawsuit, Ross says he recently tested his theory that certain words trigger videos to be restricted. He uploaded two videos last month in which he reviewed different kinds of tea, and peppered in LGBTQ-related terms in the video. Despite these videos centering on reviewing tea products, YouTube marked these videos as restricted.
“YouTube has really been messing with me, and that means they’re messing with a lot of people,” Ross told Business Insider. “I want to see the community being respected. I want YouTube to actually fix things.”
Watch the video from the plaintiffs about why they’re suing YouTube:
You can read the entire class-action lawsuit against YouTube here: