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YouTube's restricted mode is hurting video game channels and LGBT content creators

YouTube has been called out by members of the games industry and LGBT community after a number of content creators noticed their videos were being hidden by the platform's restricted mode algorithm.

Chris Kerr, News Editor

March 21, 2017

3 Min Read

YouTube has been called out by members of the video game industry and LGBT community after a number of content creators noticed their videos were being hidden by the platform's restricted mode algorithm.  

Much of the affected content doesn't seem to violate any of the rules that would result in videos being made undiscoverable when searching in restricted mode, which looks to filter out mature content to make YouTube a safer place for children and young adults. 

What's more, other videos relating to family friendly games such as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild appear to have been hidden simply because they've been marked with the 'gaming' tag. 

It's a concerning issue for game devs who'll see the platform as a powerful marketing tool, and for content creators using YouTube to make a living and spread positive messages. 

Speaking to Polygon, Mark Brown, the creator of Game Maker's Toolkit, noticed that some of his videos couldn't be viewed in restricted mode, despite adhering to the rules and regulations set out by YouTube. "I took a look when I saw other YouTubers talking about their own videos being inaccessible," Brown explained.

"I haven't received anything from YouTube itself about this. My bigger concern, of course, surrounds the reports that YouTube is blocking valuable LGBT resources. That sucks, and I hope YouTube will take the necessary steps to fix this.

"My videos don't contain anything remotely controversial. So my best guess is that restricted mode has hidden videos about games that have mature or violent content, like Doom, Deus Ex, BioShock, and Hitman."

Although Brown's entire channel wasn't affected, some others have been completely cut off. For example, game developer Zoe Quinn noticed that her channel is totally inaccessible in restricted mode. 

And while Quinn has created content relating to sexuality and other issues that could be perceived as 'mature,' a lot of her videos revolve around game creation and programming. 

"YouTube's restricted mode hides my work from search, including my own channel, as much as it filters people calling me a whore," tweeted Quinn, highlighting just how inaccurate and the algorithm is.

"The stuff on my channel is mostly programming things and Arduino stuff, but my entire channel is hidden from YouTube's restricted mode search. Meanwhile, dudes calling me a filthy lying slut and talking about my fictitious sex life is family friendly, I guess."

For its part, YouTube has been open about the system's flaws in the past, and never claimed restricted mode filtering would be 100 percent accurate. This recent spate of blockages, however, has forced the company to admit that the feature needs some serious maintenance work. 

"We understand that this has been confusing and upsetting, and many of you have raised concerns about Restricted Mode and your content being unfairly impacted. The bottom line is that this feature isn’t working the way it should. We’re sorry and we’re going to fix it," reads a recent YouTube blog post

"Today, about 1.5 percent of YouTube’s daily views come from people who have Restricted Mode turned on. But we know this isn’t about numbers; it’s about the principle of anyone having access to important content and different points of view.

"Our system sometimes make mistakes in understanding context and nuances when it assesses which videos to make available in Restricted Mode. While the system will never be 100 percent perfect, as we said up top, we must and will do a better job."

How exactly the company will attempt to reform the failing system remains to be seen, but for now you can find out more about how restricted mode works by checking out the official YouTube website

About the Author(s)

Chris Kerr

News Editor, GameDeveloper.com

Game Developer news editor Chris Kerr is an award-winning journalist and reporter with over a decade of experience in the game industry. His byline has appeared in notable print and digital publications including Edge, Stuff, Wireframe, International Business Times, and PocketGamer.biz. Throughout his career, Chris has covered major industry events including GDC, PAX Australia, Gamescom, Paris Games Week, and Develop Brighton. He has featured on the judging panel at The Develop Star Awards on multiple occasions and appeared on BBC Radio 5 Live to discuss breaking news.

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