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YouTube admitted to making “mistakes” after multiple LGBTQ and sex education content creators said they received warnings for videos sponsored by sex toy site Adam & Eve.
Queer YouTubers have been fighting with the platform and its policies for years. Just last month, a group of LGBTQ YouTubers filed a class-action lawsuit against YouTube for unfairly restricting and demonetizing their videos.
Last month, when the Daily Dot contacted YouTube about the lawsuit, a representative said, “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.’”
However, that statement likely rings hollow for the creators who said their videos have been restricted and demonetized because their content contained, for example, sex education or the word “transgender.”
Tomorrow's very tame video about dating and sex education at Hogwarts with @whatsmybodydoin has been demonetised (confirmed by manual review) and it has 15 views. That is about 14 more than it usually takes to determine the status of a video.— Hannah Witton (@hannahwitton) September 9, 2019
DO NOT LET YOUTUBE GET AWAY WITH THIS.— Chase Ross 🐝 (@ChaseRoss) May 30, 2018
I uploaded my video TWICE to see if the word "transgender" would trigger the algorithm... and every step of the way was fine UNTIL I added the word Transgender. RIGHT away, the video was demonetized.
Literally. RIGHT. AWAY. pic.twitter.com/mvCucFPyZP
For queer creators, especially those who create sex education videos, YouTube’s content policies makes it near-impossible to make money on the platform. So to fund sex-ed videos, many YouTubers have turned to sponsorships with sex toy companies.
One of the most popular sex toy companies YouTuberswork with is Adam & Eve. So it came as a shock when creators started receiving warnings from YouTube about their sponsorships.
Ash Hardell woke up to a community guideline strike on Sept. 8 for linking to Adam & Eve in a video and then tweeted, “How many Youtubers do you know who work with them?! Whats your plan @YouTube, flag all sex educators spon vids in the middle of the night and take us off the platform?”
Literally say goodbye to any YTer who has ever done a sponsorship with Adamandeve with the way YT enforces community guidelines. How dare sex educators get paid for their work! Also let’s just ignore hateful bullshit other folks spread cuz they aren’t hooking ppl up with dildos. https://t.co/wKcpq6Qnnn— Ash Hardell (@AshHardell) September 8, 2019
At least two other LGBTQ YouTubers, Stef Sanjati and Alayna Fender, also received warnings or strikes for Adam & Eve sponsorships. “Just got a ‘first warning’ penalty because they found a (sponsored) Adam&Eve link on a video from 2 years ago…?” Fender tweeted. “And when I try to click to appeal it, it takes me to a page where there is no place to appeal it…? I’m genuinely not sure what I’m supposed to do here. Remove all Adam&Eve links from my videos out of fear?”
If a channel is issued three strikes, YouTube automatically deletes it.
I got this today.— Stef Sanjati 🎄🍞 (@stefsanjati) September 8, 2019
One of the affected YouTubers shared the email they got from YouTube with the Daily Dot. According to the email, the link to Adam & Eve’s site violated the rule against “content that contains nudity and is meant to be sexually gratifying.”
As queer creators and sex educators rallied around those who had gotten this warning from YouTube, some inconsistencies became apparent. For example, Sexplanations, a channel hosted by clinical sexologist Lindsey Doe, has ongoing sponsorship with Adam & Eve, but Doe told the Daily Dot she isn’t aware of any warnings or strikes they’ve received as a result.
The queer kink channel Watts the Safeword is sponsored by Adam & Eve’s partner gay site, AdamMale, but it also hasn’t received any strikes for that sponsorship. Still, Amp Somers, one of the hosts of Watts the Safeword, has been active in calling out YouTube for apparently demonetizing queer sex ed.
So @youtube is fine with harmful abusive content that instills hate and violence, but the second queer educators find a way to get paid for their work through sponsors we are threatened with channel strikes? Cool cool. Would love an actual explanation here @TeamYouTube— Amp Somers (@Pup_Amp) September 9, 2019
Is it just me or are only the LGBTQ content creators who work with Adam&Eve being hit with this...? https://t.co/CkCtyY3txi— Alayna Joy 🌻 (@MissFenderr) September 10, 2019
Outwardly the only ones talking are LGBTQ+. I’ve been keeping tabs and seeing if anyone like Trisha Paytas is saying anything. Meanwhile @TeamYouTube is all but quiet to the couple tweets that have hundreds of retweets and likes asking for answers...— Amp Somers (@Pup_Amp) September 10, 2019
If not all creators who have sponsor links to Adam & Eve are getting these warnings, it’s hard to know what rule they’re really breaking. As Somers pointed out in an email to the Daily Dot, there are bigger creators, like Davey Wavey and Trisha Paytas, who also have sponsorship with Adam & Eve and who have not publicly shared any issues with YouTube over this.
A YouTube spokesperson told the Daily Dot that it “incorrectly” gave strikes to creators who had sponsor links to Adam & Eve in their videos.
“With the massive volume of videos on our site, we sometimes make mistakes. When we do, we work to resolve them as quickly as possible,” the spokesperson said. “In this case, we incorrectly issued strikes on videos with links to an adult toy site. When this was brought to our attention, we worked quickly to resolve the strikes for all affected creators.”
After receiving that statement, the Daily Dot tried to confirm that these strikes had been resolved. As of this writing, at least one of the affected YouTubers says their strike has not been resolved yet but that YouTube said it was investigating the issue.
Mistake or not, the strikes put many of YouTube’s queer sex educators on edge. And as the class-action lawsuit indicates, some LGBTQ YouTubers feel that their videos are placed under unfair scrutiny.
“A platform lying, gaslighting and taking advantage of creators does not build trust,” Somers tweeted on Wednesday.
Alex Dalbey is a writer and zinester currently living in Saint Paul, Minnesota. They have written for The Daily Dot, Kill Screen, The Lingerie Addict, and Bullet Points.