NEW YORK — The YouTube video shows two women, dressed in suits and ties. They smile; they sniffle back tears; they gaze into each other’s eyes. They are reading their wedding vows to one another.
The four-minute video titled “Her Vows” contains no nudity, violence or swearing. There’s no revealing clothing. No one is engaging in activities that have a “high risk of injury or death.” And yet, YouTube had deemed the video unsuitable for people under 18.
YouTube acknowledged Monday that it might have made a mistake, saying in a tweet: “Some videos have been incorrectly labeled and that’s not right. We’re on it! More to come.” The restriction on the vows video was lifted by Monday afternoon. But others – including one from YouTube celebrity Tyler Oakley titled “8 Black LGBTQ+ Trailblazers Who Inspire Me” – remained on YouTube’s age-restricted list.
Several YouTube users, many of them in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, have been complaining that their videos are categorized as “restricted” for no obvious reasons.
The “restricted” designation lets parents, schools and libraries filter out content that isn’t appropriate for users under 18. YouTube calls it “an optional feature used by a very small subset of users.”
It’s unclear whether the types of videos in question are now being categorized as “restricted” for the first time, or whether this is a long-standing policy that is only now getting attention. More likely, it is the latter.
U.K.-based YouTube creator Rowan Ellis made a video criticizing the restrictions last week.
This video itself was restricted, though YouTube has since reclassified that video as OK. In an email, Ellis said YouTube needs to reach out to the LGBTQ community to explain “how this system works, and how it came to flag like this, if it was indeed an error and not a deliberate targeting.”
Companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter rely on humans and computer software to weed out unsuitable content. Mistakes can happen, whether by a person or a machine.