YouTube is embroiled in controversy yet again: Queer content creators claim the platform is showing anti-LGBTQ ads from right-wing groups on their videos.
Earlier this month, Chase Ross, a transgender YouTuber, discovered that ads from conservative group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) were playing on his videos. ADF is a legal firm that has historically fought against LGBTQ causes and is currently categorized as an anti-queer hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Ross told Forbes that he received similar screenshots from viewers about ads from other anti-LGBTQ public figures, including Michael Brown, a religious web personality who calls homosexuality a “sin” in his advert.
— Jace Aarons (@JaceAarons) May 31, 2018
“This started up the conversation with other LGBTQ YouTubers, and we all realized our videos had anti-LGBTQ ads placed on them,” Ross said.
He added that many of his videos are targeted toward young people who might be coming into their own gender identity or sexuality, making these ads even more inappropriate.
“These individuals are in a vulnerable place, and these anti-LGBTQ organizations are taking advantage of them,” he said. “This isn’t right, and I don’t like that YouTube is [letting] this happen. Anti-LGBTQ ads shouldn’t be placed on our videos.”
Since news of these incidents broke, LGBTQ content creators and straight allies have spoken out against the company, including popular vlogger Hank Green and bisexual YouTuber and podcast host Gaby Dunn.
If you're a fan of JBU, have you been seeing anti-gay ads before our videos? Some viewers just alerted me to this and other youtubers are having this problem too.
— GABY ️ (@gabydunn) June 1, 2018
In a statement to Polygon, a representative from YouTube explained that creators can choose to limit the types of ads their viewers see. But many creators—including Ross and Green—had no idea that this option existed.
Hi Chase. Re: ads, creators are not required to accept ads from groups they disagree with. You can set an ad exclusion for a specific advertiser URL, general ad content categories, or sensitive content categories. Here's the link: https://t.co/eF5JdYjrNG
— YouTube (@YouTube) June 1, 2018
Sadly, queer content creators are no stranger to YouTube’s anti-LGBTQ policies. For more than a year, YouTubers have called out the company for demonetizing or restricting their queer content. Just last month, trans content creator Stef Sanjati claimed her videos were being unjustifiably stripped of ad revenue or restricted to certain viewers.
In the past, officials from YouTube said the company altered its algorithms to prevent the restriction of LGBTQ content. But queer YouTubers say the issue has only worsened.