YouTube’s Restricted Mode renders some gun and news channels entirely invisible. We show you what we found. Is it censorship? Political agenda? Bad business?
This past weekend we took a deeper look into YouTube’s Restricted Mode. We analyzed several channels from a few different subject areas, and charted what percentage of videos are being restricted. Rather than merely tell you about them, and since YouTube is a visual medium, we wanted to show you what we found.
The LGBT community brought the restricted mode issues to the fore a few weeks ago, so we already knew channels like Tyler Oakley’s and Shane Dawson’s had some (or all) of their videos invisible under restricted mode. What surprised us is the number of liberty-focused channels and news channels that also had significant portions of their content missing with restrictions turned on. And when we began looking at guns and ammunition channels and related content, we were shocked at the number of videos hidden.
We tracked several channels we follow to find the percentages of videos each had ‘lost’ under restricted mode. You can see the results here, where some channels were entirely gone under this setting. You can see for yourself the different You Tube channels we looked at, and what percentage of their content has been hidden in restricted mode.
Here’s why this is important: creators that don’t have much of a chance to appear on traditional media can create content that is able to build and reach an audience, sometimes with millions of subscribers. If YouTube is making it harder for some creators to support themselves by hiding videos and giving advertisers no choice to run ads on popular channels, many of those voices will be muted. And an avenue to get around mainstream media bias will be severely limited or lost for gun channels, news channels, liberty channels, and so on.
In light of the lack of transparency and seemingly arbitrary application of guidelines, there are questions that YouTube should answer. In order to provide creators and users with better information, the management at YouTube should address these and other questions:
- What qualifies a video as restriction-worthy?
- What can a creator do to protest restrictions?
- Does a channel pass a certain threshold of restricted videos to become completely restricted?
- What subject matter is restricted?
- If violence is restricted, why are gaming channels not as severely affected as 2A channels?
- Are restrictions related to the recent Google ad boycott?
- Is there a review process for creators to protest having content restricted?
Given YouTube’s increasing popularity and its growing influence as a news, information, and entertainment source that bypasses the traditional media outlets, creators and users alike are invested in the platform’s success. The opportunity for alternative voices and topics to gain a substantial and profitable platform has never been greater. But the risk of muting certain voices is too high for YouTube to ignore their users’ concerns.