YouTube Avoids Free Speech Suit Over LGBTQ Content

A judge in California has tossed out a lawsuit against YouTube that alleged the platform is discriminating against LGBTQ+ content creators.

The lawsuit was originally jointly filed in 2019 by five LGBTQ+ creators who said they had been unfairly targeted by the website’s content moderation policy. Videos that contained words like “transgender,” “lesbian,” “gay,” or “bisexual” were often demonetized or hidden from other users — limiting their success rates — after being flagged as “adult content” by YouTube’s restricted mode.

While California Magistrate Judge Virginia K. DeMarchi did reject the lawsuit, she did not rule on the merit of the five plaintiffs’ experiences with YouTube. Instead, she simply expressed that she did not believe the platform was violating free speech rights. DeMarchi also heard and rejected claims that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects social media websites from prosecution based on content shared on their platforms, is effectively acting as the government.

“To the extent plaintiffs suggest that defendants have effectively declared themselves the equivalent of ‘state actors’ and must be treated as such for purposes of the First Amendment, plaintiffs cite no authority for such a radical proposition,” she ruled, according to Law360.

Many YouTubers have commented on and complained about the YouTube “adult content” filters that are making it difficult for LGBTQ+ creators to be seen. However, both YouTube and Google, its parent company, have denied allegations of any wrongdoing.

“All content on our site is subject to the same policies,” a representative told BuzzFeed News in 2019. “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.”

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