YouTube's mysterious age gates

So, YouTube is age-gating LGBT+ content automatically for users with "Restricted mode" on, and since YouTube is AWESOME at communicating about their systems, people are super confused about what that means. I'm not certain either, and tomorrow I'm going to be posting a video that will both explore and test these issues.

The main issue I saw is the idea that YouTube is demonetizing LGBT+ videos, which I believe is not actually the case, but appears to be based on the way YouTube talks about it because they aren't clear about the difference between what's marked as "mature" and what's just marked as "restricted."

I wrote in response to a thread on the topic, here (my response duplicated below).


This version of restricted doesn’t demonetize videos, from what I understand. (source – tubefilter.com, second to last paragraph) YouTube has two (super vague and awkwardly named) types of restriction: there’s the “mature content” age gate and the “restricted content” age gate. The first one has been around for a long time, it does demonetize, and you only get it if you or enough viewers specifically flag your video as containing mature content. To see “mature content” videos you have to log in and agree that you want to see them.

YouTube’s Age-restricted content page makes it sound like there’s only one kind of restricted, but that’s likely because it’s on the page for what happens to videos that get flagged as mature – which do get demonetized, and, unsurprisingly, also fall into the category of “stuff they don’t show in restricted mode.”

Google rolled out a “restricted” mode like a year ago, basically for adults to use when handing their iPad to their young children, so they don’t stumble on inappropriate content. It DOESN’T demonetize your videos, but it DOES mean it’s easy for parents to (accidentally or deliberately) prevent their children from being exposed to any discussion of LGBT people. (My initial information on this topic came from Folding Ideas’s recent video on the issue, which is a 16m section of a stream. Protip: he talks pretty slowly, but you can set videos to up to double speed and they stay pretty intelligible.)

There’s no indication of if your video is made invisible by restricted mode, and there’s no appeal process for disagreeing with YouTube’s ruling.

What’s probably going on here (hypothesizing, not justifying) is that YouTube is trying to filter for genuinely sexually explicit content that pushes the boundaries of YouTube’s community guidelines. In the case of LGBT content that means it’s got the same problem that a lot of the internet has: that due to the various -phobias that informed society throughout the emergence of the internet, a major source of LGBT-related keywords on the internet is porn. 

YouTube is owned by Google, who have also been having this problem in trying to determine what does and doesn’t constitute “safe search” guidelines. I don’t believe they’re doing this maliciously, but I do believe that they need to be doing a lot better. Google’s got approximately the best algorithm-building people in the world working for them, and we should absolutely be pressuring them to prioritize learning how to tell the difference between “gay” and “gay porn.” 

But to be clear, as far as I can tell – and it doesn’t help that YouTube is opaque as fuck when it comes to their guidelines – having your videos hidden in restricted mode does not mean that they get demonetized, although (on the issue of creator revenue) it does mean that a segment of potential audience is removed. 

I’m going to test this out when I make a video for my vlog on Thursday – I don’t usually monetize but I am able to, so I should be able to test this personally by naming a video “A GAY VIDEO ABOUT GAY THINGS” or something and seeing what happens.