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YouTube says the video violated its community standards, but the site’s claim doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.
YouTube has deemed a video starring a prominent disability rights activist too steamy for the video-sharing site, dumping it amidst dubious claims it violates the company’s terms of service.
The video is part of a campaign by Come4, the porn nonprofit that wants to turn the world’s predilection for pornography into a cash cow for charities. It stars Asta Philpot, who suffers from a congenital disease called arthrogryposis that severely limits his mobility and leaves him confined to a wheelchair. In the video, while highly erotic images play across the screen (including brief glimpses of nudity), Philpot details the life-changing trip he took to a brothel with a group of disabled virgin friends. That trip was the the subject of a 2007 documentary on the BBC, which Philpot used as a launching pad for a new sexual advocacy organizaition, the Asta Philpot Foundation.
A YouTube spokesperson claimed the video broke violated the site’s community standards:
“[YouTube] has community guidelines which govern what content is acceptable to post on the site. When people see content that they think is inappropriate they can flag it and it is reviewed by our staff. If the content breaks our guidelines, we remove it.”
But how did the video violate those community guidelines? Here’s the section on nudity:
Most nudity is not allowed, particularly if it is in a sexual context. Generally if a video is intended to be sexually provocative, it is less likely to be acceptable for YouTube. There are exceptions for some educational, documentary, scientific, and artistic content, but only if that is the sole purpose of the video and it is not gratuitously graphic. For example, a documentary on breast cancer would be appropriate, but posting clips out of context from the documentary might not be.
The advertisement remains on Vimeo. Watch it below, and judge for yourself if it violates YouTube’s TOS:
Did the ad intend to be sexually provocative? Yes. But the guidelines suggest there’s some wiggle room: “There are exceptions for some educational, documentary, scientific, and artistic content, but only if that is the sole purpose of the video and it is not gratuitously graphic.”
You could easily argue Come4’s ad is both artistic and educational. It’s message, ultimately, has less to do with smut and salaciousness than it does with sexual rights and freedom. So why pull it? Who was it hurting? It’s not like YouTube doesn’t already have a massive porn problem.
The Guardian reached out to Philpot to see what he thought of the whole affair:
He describes YouTube’s decision as “pretty disgusting” and feels that if they’d seen “beyond the naked breasts” and recognised the message behind the film, they’d have realised that “it’s actually ethical. A friend of mine died without ever having a [sexual] experience and I don’t ever want to let that happen again.”
Screengrab via YouTube
Kevin Morris is a veteran web reporter and editor who specializes in longform journalism. He led the Daily Dot’s esports vertical and, following its acquisition by GAMURS in late 2016, launched Dot Esports, where he serves as the site’s editor-in-chief.