The story usually goes something like this: YouTube is a freewheeling content platform where almost anything goes and TV is a stodgy heavily-censored product of the man. Today that narrative is reversed, as one young television actor is calling out YouTube for censorship and discrimination. Gavin Macintosh, best known for his roll as Connor on ABC Family’s The Fosters, took to Twitter last night to blast YouTube for censoring content from the show.
In a series of tweets, MacIntosh called out YouTube for placing age restrictions on a clip from the show containing a same sex kiss between himself and costar Hayden Byerly. Those restrictions would prevent anyone who hasn’t registered as 18 or older on Google+ from seeing the clip. The restrictions have since been dropped, but it did lead MacIntosh and fans of the show to question YouTube’s decision to censor this particular scene while placing no such restrictions on considerably more graphic content.
The scene did cause a stir when it aired, given that it is the youngest same sex kiss in American television history. Macintosh is 15 and Byerly is 14 but both play characters who are 13 years old. Much of YouTube’ s censoring and content management program relies on users to report potentially objectionable material. The controversy surrounding the scene likely led to its being flagged in the first place while other, similar content flies under the radar.
YouTube’s Terms of Service allow content to be age restricted if it contains “vulgar language, violence and disturbing imagery, nudity and sexually aggressive content and portrayal of harmful or dangerous activities.” The content in question may be sexual, but could hardly be characterized as aggressive and far less so than similar scenes between heterosexual characters even on the same show. However, Google does provide some cover by stating that “some videos don’t violate our policies, but may not be appropriate for all audiences.” A broad exception that allows the platform to censor virtually any content.
For the moment, YouTube has reversed its decision and the scene is now available to users of all ages. Macintosh has also deleted his tweets, suggesting that he is satisfied with the resolution as he has yet to make any official comment on the issue. Still, the incident does raise questions about YouTube’s willingness to censor content selectively without providing firm guidelines for content creators and users.
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