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A group of five LGBTQ YouTubers, including some with hundreds of thousands of subscribers, are suing YouTube because they said their earnings have dramatically declined due to the platform’s discrimination.
According to the Washington Post, the lawsuit was filed Tuesday evening, and the creators who run the BriaAndChrissy (851,000 subscribers), Watts The Safeword (195,000), and Queer Kid Stuff (16,000) channels are accusing YouTube of “embedding” the discrimination directly into the platform’s business model.
“By controlling an estimated 95% 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,” Peter Obstler, the plaintiffs’ lead attorney, told the newspaper.
Clearly, the LGBTQ creators believe YouTube is not picking them as the winners.
As a result, the creators have accused YouTube of restricting the viewership on their content, negatively affecting their advertising revenue, and hurting their subscriber numbers. They also say that YouTube’s algorithms and the actual humans who review the site’s content will then downgrade content that features the words “gay,” “lesbian,” and “bisexual.”
According to the lawsuit, YouTube uses “unlawful content regulation, distribution, and monetization practices that stigmatize restrict, block, demonetize, and financially harm the LGBT plaintiffs and the greater LGBT community.”
Bria Kam and Chrissy Chambers, who run the BriaAndChrissy channel, said their monthly YouTube revenue has been decimated to about $500 from $3,500, while Bret Somers—who runs Watts the Safeword—said YouTube’s algorithm has been restricting most of his videos and has caused his monthly earnings to drop from $6,500 to $300.
But last week, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki told vlogger Alfie Deyes that there are no “polices that say ‘If you put certain words in a title, that will be demonetized.’ We work incredibly hard to make sure that when our machines learn something—because a lot of our decisions are made algorithmically—that our machines are fair.”
In June, YouTube faced plenty of criticism for its decision not to punish politically conservative YouTuber Steven Crowder for making repeated homophobic and racist remarks to journalist Carlos Maza. YouTube said Crowder had not violated the platform’s community guidelines.
“YouTube isn’t just failing queer creators. It’s actively exploiting us,” Maza told the Daily Dot at the time. “It’s publicly pretending to care about us so that it can paint a happy, advertiser-friendly image. But YouTube refuses to enforce the policies that protect us from abuse, and continues to use its technology and algorithms to drive millions and millions of views to videos that dehumanize us, all in the name of engagement.”
A YouTube spokesman didn’t have an immediate comment for the Post on the newly filed lawsuit. YouTube also didn’t immediately respond Wednesday morning to a Daily Dot request for comment.
Update 3:44pm CT: YouTube responded to the Daily Dot on Wednesday afternoon with the following statement.
“We’re proud that so many LGBTQ creators have chosen YouTube as a place to share their stories and build community,” YouTube spokesperson Alex Joseph 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.’ 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.”
Josh Katzowitz is a staff writer at the Daily Dot specializing in YouTube and boxing. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times. A longtime sports writer, he's covered the NFL for CBSSports.com and boxing for Forbes. His work has been noted twice in the Best American Sports Writing book series.