A group of LGBTQ YouTubers is suing YouTube parent Google, alleging that the two companies discriminate against their videos and community. "They flagged our pride," one YouTuber alleges in a video posted to the site Wednesday to announce the lawsuit. "They did not allow us to buy ads. They restricted us. They demonetized us. And they did not stand up for us."
The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, alleges that since 2016, YouTube and Google have been engaged in "unlawful content regulation, distribution, and monetization practices that stigmatize, restrict, block, demonetize, and financially harm the LGBTQ+ Plaintiffs and the greater LGBTQ+ Community."
Google and YouTube "brand LGBTQ+ content as 'shocking,' 'offensive,' and/or 'sexually explicit' not because of the video's content, but either because the viewpoints expressed involve what a senior Google/YouTube content curator dubbed the 'gay thing,' or because the content was posted by or viewed by YouTube Community members who identify as 'gay,'" the lawsuit alleges.
Neither Google nor the group behind the suit immediately responded to a request for comment.
Plaintiffs in the suit include YouTubers associated with channels such as Queer Kid Stuff, Watts The Safeword and uppercaseCHASE1. Watts the Safeword and uppercaseCHASE each have more than 150,000 subscribers, according to figures on their YouTube pages.
Video demonetization, or removing the advertising from a video, has been debated among YouTubers for years. In June, YouTube drew ire from the LGBTQ community when it decided not to take down a prominent user's channel that was hurling homophobic slurs at a journalist who's gay. YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki ended up apologizing.
Alex Joseph, a YouTube spokesperson, said the video platform has the same policies for all content on its site.
"We're proud that so many LGBTQ creators have chosen YouTube as a place to share their stories and build community," the spokesperson said in an emailed statement Wednesday afternoon. "Our policies have no notion of sexual orientation or gender identity, and our systems do not restrict or demonetize videos based on these factors or the inclusion of terms like 'gay' or 'transgender.'"
First published at 11:32 a.m. PT on Aug. 14.
Updated at 3:34 p.m.: adds statement from YouTube