YouTube is being accused of automatically demonetizing videos that have “trans” or “transgender” in the title.
Chase Ross, a transgender male vlogger, typically features videos that touch on his experience as a trans person. However, he posted on Twitter that when he posted a video celebrating his five year post-op anniversary with the term “transgender” in the title, the video was demonetized “right away.”
When Ross uploaded the same video without transgender in the title, the demonetization feature did not flag it as inappropriate.
Ross also removed the word “trans” from several of his videos in October of 2017 when he got a notification saying his videos were not “suitable for most advertisers.” When he removed the word, they were subsequently deemed acceptable.
The vlogger, who has over 135,000 subscribers, also said he has had his videos age-restricted for people under the age of 18. Ross said that he is upset with this practice because YouTube has been such a “beautiful platform” for education in the trans community.
“We all found ourselves here. We found our identities. We figured out who we were. We watched other people’s top surgery videos and realized oh my god I need that, I need that feeling,” Ross told The Verge. “YouTube has been a lifesaver for so many trans people, and I wish that this education that’s available now was available when I was younger. But here’s the kicker: I was under 18, so all of this education I would not have had access to [if it was age-restricted].”
After Ross’ tweet went viral, YouTube got in touch with him to say the video was now monetized. They also denied having a system that immediately flags transgender as a means for demonetization.
“We do not have a list of LGBTQ-related words that trigger demonetization and we are constantly evaluating our systems to ensure they are enforcing our policies without any bias,” a YouTube spokesperson told The Daily Dot. “We use machine learning to evaluate content against our advertiser guidelines. Sometimes our systems get it wrong, which is why we’ve encouraged creators to appeal. Successful appeals ensure that our systems to [sic] get better and better.”
However, demonetization and age restrictions are not the only issue Ross has run into with YouTube and his content. He also posted a video on Saturday about an anti-LGBTQ advertisement being shown before his videos. The ad was from Alliance Defending Freedom, the group that represented Jack Phillips in the Masterpiece Cakeshop Supreme Court case.
“I know that it’s the algorithm and the bots and the way that everything is coded,” Ross said. “But you’re allowing an anti-LGBT ad, a very homophobic and transphobic company, [to] advertise their message.”
He continued, calling it hypocritical to demonetize his videos “and yet on the other side…advertising homophobic stuff on our videos.”
And he’s not the only one complaining about the anti-LGBTQ ad running on pro-LGBTQ content.
A YouTube spokeperson said in a statement that the company has polices against ads that “incite hatred or promote discrimination” and that all the ads shown on YouTube comply with that policy.
“Even when an ad does not violate our policies, we understand that creators may not want ads from certain advertisers appearing on their videos,” they said. “That’s why we give creators the ability to block ads from an advertiser in their AdSense account. We also give creators the option to block certain categories of ads if they choose.”
However, forcing LGBTQ YouTubers and their allies to have to actively prevent bigotry being advertised on their channels has drawn similar ire.
The entire experience has left Ross frustrated, saying that he does not think YouTube is paying enough attention to this problem.
“It’s like we can’t win,” he said. “I don’t feel like people take us seriously and it needs to change. YouTube really needs to start paying attention to this community…I don’t feel like I belong on a platform that I and other LGBTQ+ individuals helped build.”