Queer Creators Take YouTube To Court
A group of queer and trans content creators, dubbing themselves the Rainbow Coalition, have filed a lawsuit against YouTube and parent company Google for actions that they say have resulted in discrimination against them and their ability to share and monetize their content based on being queer and trans. The suit, filed in federal court in California on behalf of Celso Dulay, Chris Knight, and Cameron Stiehl of GNews!, Bria Kam and Chrissy Chambers of BriaAndChrissy), Chase Ross of uppercaseCHASE1), Lindsay Amer of Queer Kid Stuff, and Amp Somers of Watts The Safeword, seeks class action status as well.
That lawsuit states that “YouTube is engaged in discriminatory, anticompetitive, and unlawful conduct that harms a protected class of persons under California law,” claiming that “unlawful content regulation, distribution, and monetization practices that stigmatize, restrict, block, demonetize, and financially harm the LGBT Plaintiffs and the greater LGBT Community.”
At issue, according to the suit, is the virtual monopoly the company has in hosting online video content. According to the plaintiffs, that monopoly was used to “selectively apply their rules and restrictions in a manner that allowed them to gain an unfair advantage to profit from their own content to the detriment of its consumers.”
“They flagged our pride,” said Chase Ross in a video statement. “They did not allow us to buy ads. They restricted us, they demonetized us, and they did not stand up for us.”
“Google and YouTube continue to censor us,” adds queer kink channel Watts the Safeword creator Amp Somers, “and tell us that we’re not breaking any rules, but that our content is still not allowed and going to be restricted on this platform.”
YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki claims that’s not the case, however. In an interview with vlogger Alfie Deyes, following the company’s controversial actions in response to conservative pundit Steven Crowder’s homophobic remarks about Vox staffer Carlos Maza on his YouTube channel, she claimed that ““There’s no policies 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.”
Wojciki followed up that recent interview with an apology at June 2019’s Code Conference. “I’m really, personally very sorry,” said Wojcicki. “YouTube has always been a home of so many LGBTQ creators, and that’s why it was so emotional. Even though it was a hard decision, it was harder that it came from us, because it was such an important home. And even though we made this decision, we have so many people from the LGBTQ community. We’ve always wanted to openly support this community. As a company we really want to support this community.”
According to the lawsuit though, that apology was only so much lip service.
“Instead of taking LGBTQ+ reports of viewpoint discrimination and selective restrictions on LGBTQ+ content seriously,” it states, “Ms. Wojcicki spent some of her ‘personal vacation’ time doing carefully scripted PR or ‘selfie’ interviews with selected YouTubers.”
Still, the company seems to remain firm in its stance that it treats all of its content creators fairly and without bias.
“We’re proud that so many LGBTQ creators have chosen YouTube as a place to share their stories and build community,” said YouTube spokesperson Alex Joseph in response to the lawsuit. “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.”
Thought the lawsuit, in addition to monetary damages, the plaintiffs are seeking an injunction to prevent YouTube from “capriciously restricting, demonetizing, or otherwise censoring any content of videos uploaded to the YouTube” and “censoring, restricting, restraining, or regulating speech based on the discretionary use or application of discriminatory, animus-based, arbitrary, capricious, vague, unspecified, or subjective criteria, rules, guidelines, and/or practices.”