LGBT vlogger Chase Ross is furious with YouTube’s algorithm for restricting the audience for his videos, stripping them of revenue, and targeting them with “anti-gay” ads.
Ross, who has 147,570 subscribers and has racked up millions of views, has a catalogue of complaints, which he laid out to Business Insider in a phone interview on Tuesday.
His concerns fall into four categories, perhaps the most troubling of which is that his videos are apparently being targeted with adverts that are homophobic in nature.
In a video posted on June 2, Ross expressed concern that anti-LGBT advertisements from a group called the Alliance Defending Freedom, which has been defined as a hate-group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, were popping up on his videos.
Ross told Business Insider that he first saw the ad a couple of months ago, and he assumed it was a fluke. “I thought it was a one-time thing,” he said. “Now it’s happening all the time, and now it’s not funny.”
Other LGBT vloggers have noted similar ads popping up on their videos. Writer and YouTuber Gaby Dunn said she had been alerted to “anti-gay” ads running on her Just Between Us channel.
Elijah Daniel, another YouTuber who describes himself as “king of the gays,” was outraged when an anti-LGBT advert from conservative commentator Dr. Michael L Brown was run on his channel.
On his own channel, Brown addressed the blowback from the advert. Brown said he asked YouTube to target a “conservative Christian audience” and gave the company a list of keywords which included “faith, beliefs, Bible, Christian, Christianity, family, gay, God, homosexual, marriage.”
Ross told Business Insider that the ads were troubling because LGBT vloggers often have large audiences of younger people questioning their own sexuality and identity. “I feel like the vulnerable population of people who are questioning themselves are going to look at this and think ‘oh this is wrong, I need to not look at this,'” he said.
This was echoed by Britain’s highest-profile LGBT charity. In a statement to Business Insider, Stonewall said: “The issue with anti-LGBT adverts is deeply concerning and it needs to be corrected quickly. Not only is this content offensive, it can be extremely damaging to young LGBT people who are seeking information and support.”
YouTube said vloggers have tools to block specific advertisers and categories of ads on their videos. “We are looking at ways to improve our policies going forward,” a spokesman added.
Among the other problems Ross noticed, he said videos with the word “trans” or “transgender” in the headline were being demonetized, or in other words, stripped of their advertising
He tested this by taking down demonetized videos with the word “trans” in the title and re-uploading them without it. Subsequently, they were monetized straight away.
Ross said he appealed to YouTube about one recent video that was demonetized and it took the company 40 hours to reverse the decision. This meant Ross lost out on money because “all the views come in the first day of the video being posted.”
A YouTube spokesman said the firm does not have a list of LGBT words that “trigger demonetization.” He added: “We use machine learning to evaluate content against our advertiser guidelines. Sometimes our systems get it wrong, which is why we’ve encouraged creators to appeal. Successful appeals ensure that our systems get better.”
Ross also said some videos had unnecessary age restrictions applied to them, meaning users under the age of 18 were unable to watch them. This included videos that were retrospectively slapped with an age restriction, even though they were up to six years old.
In addition to age restrictions, some of his videos were classified under ‘Restricted Mode’ by YouTube last year. This means users in some public institutions, such as libraries and schools, are unable to watch the content.
“I have about 700 videos, at that time last year probably about 650, and only four videos would show up under restricted mode,” Ross said.
Ross does not believe “YouTube itself is transphobic or homophobic” — he said it’s just not taking the issue as seriously as it should.
“They’re not paying attention as much as they should,” Ross continued. “And that makes me feel like they don’t see the LGBT community as an equal part of YouTube and the YouTube community. Which is really sad.”