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YouTube LGBTQ-Related Videos and Hate Speech Class Action

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Does YouTube allow free speech? Should free speech include hate speech? The complaint for this class action alleges that YouTube is guilty of “discrimination, fraud, unfair and deceptive business practices, unlawful restraint of speech, and breach of consumer contract rights” for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, or queer persons. As defendants, the complaint names both YouTube and its parent company Google.

Early on, the complaint makes a startling statement: “Google/YouTube control and regulate more than 95% of the public video-based content and communications in the world.” 

YouTube claims to offer such things as “Freedom of Expression” and “Freedom to Belong.” It also claims to make all users members of a “YouTube Community[,]” who are “subject to viewpoint-neutral, content-based regulations” which are the Community Guidelines. They promise that “‘everyone’s voice’ will be heard, subject only to” these rules and to filtering that applies equally to all members of the community.

However, the complaint alleges that LGBTQ+ Community Members “are now being subjected to unlawful content regulation, distribution, and monetization practices that stigmatize, restrict, block, demonetize, and financially harm” them. 

What exactly do they do? The complaint claims that they “brand LGBTQ+ content as ‘shocking,’ ‘offensive,’ and/or ‘sexually explicit’ not because of the video’s content, but because the viewpoints expressed involve what a senior Google/YouTube content curator dubbed the ‘gay thing…’” At the same time, the complaint says, Google and YouTube “promote, sponsor, and profit from violent, obscene, and threatening hate speech and online bullying directed at and against the LGBTQ+ Community…”

The complaint names the following, among the ways the companies do all this:

  • Advertising restrictions
  • Deletion of LGBTQ+ thumbnail images
  • Cancelling and stopping new video notifications
  • Excluding LGBTQ+ related content from the “Up Next” application
  • Recommending Anti-LGBTQ+ Hate Speech in the “Up Next” application
  • Censoring LGBTQ+ users

The complaint charges, “Google/YouTube is engaged in discriminatory, anticompetitive, and unlawful conduct that harms a protected class of persons under California law.”

The YouTube Community Class is all persons or entities in the US who are or were members or users of YouTube, who posted or viewed video content on YouTube according to its Terms of Service, Mission Statement, Community Guidelines, or any other content-based filtering, monetization, distribution, personal data use policies, advertising or any other regulation and practices for You Tube between January 1, 2015 and December 31, 2019.

There is also a LGBTQ+ Community Subclass which includes those from the above class who are part of a protected class under California or federal law because of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender, or who make, post, monetize, or advertise video content on YouTube with topics relating to LGBTQ+ people.

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