YouTube: An Ally of Convenience is a investigative short documentary into the
video platform and how it moved from being a safe space for the LGBTQ
community to an ongoing battle for queer creators and a vulnerable place for
queer people to be themselves. Directed by Jill Fredenburg, a Tennessee based
filmmaker and writer, who joined us to chat about the film for Queer Womxn
Watch the full q&a here.
Why did you want to make this documentary?
Jill: YouTube has been a huge part of my entire life, but most importantly it was a huge part of my gender and sexuality discovery process. I noticed about 2 years ago started to complain about something called demonetisation. Which basically means that Youtube stopped putting advertisements in front of their videos, which meant they could no longer monitise and create as much content as was necessary to continue to educate the LGBTQ audience that they had. This wasn’t happening to videos of people being actively hateful to the LGBTQ community. I was able to study algorithmic discrimination and start to understand how this happens. Then a group of LGBTQ content creators actually filed a lawsuit against YouTube. I was able to find out as much about it as possible and decided to make a film about it for my Master’s programme. Part of it came from seeing YouTube’s Pride videos every year that they would put out. If you were still making YouTube a certain amount of money, then your videos would be fine.
Have your feelings towards YouTube changed?
I still think that it’s a really awesome platform in that you don’t need to have the right connections to produce something that you can share with hundreds of thousands of people. TikTok there are tonnes of really great LGBTQ creators and it’s not yet monetized but something is happening that where a lot of creators who identify as LGBTQ and use those words are getting shown to fewer people. It’s a frustrating thing but I’m glad that I understand it in the way that youtube did it because i see it recurring on other apps. I still view it as really necessary and important and that the creators there will always want to post there. It’s just a matter of whether it will remain their primary method of communication with their audiences.
There are people that make hundreds of millions of dollars off of doing prank videos and putting out really sexist and racist content and it’s just not being treated with the same negativity that LGBT content is.
I’m glad the platform exists, but I think that they owe it to their LGBT creators to do better.
YouTube has been accused of consistently 'flagging' LGBTQ content as adult only. What do we do to stop this?
This is very much a difficult answer but I think it’s the most true. We have to have a huge societal recognition of LGBT couples and honestly people in general and not inherently sexual. Two women kissing is not a hypersexual thing but because of the way straight cis-men view lesbian women, it get’s hypersexualised. Because of the way that most cis straight people view gay men, they are hyperseuxalised. So until we start to educate folk on not holding those biases within themselves it will be really hard to get the people programming these platforms to not put those holds in place.
Have you considered using the documentary as an educational tool?
I would love to do that. I need to look into more of what it would take to get everything really fact checked so i could confidently go through that. I’d also like to see the result of this lawsuit and update the film. The one body that I really wanted to talk to that I received no response from was YouTube itself. YouTube hasn’t really commented on this. I think after the lawsuit is over they will have more of a stance and even if it isn’t in our favour, I’d love to actually get to talk to them and take the film on tour and use it as a warning signal to new app developers and people who are creating platforms as something to avoid.
When it came out in 2005 it was really beautiful democratic platform where you could teach anybody about anything and to see the way that the systemic bias against queer people has impacted the platform frustrates me because I think it would have been fairly simple for YouTube to not do that. I think most of us know where the line is between adult content and kids content. I think it’s simpler than what Youtube wants us to think so I’d love to use the film as an educational tool for future projects.
I would love to take the same research methods and apply them to multiple platforms and get to speak to more experts about why they think this is happening. I don’t want people to come away from this film with a lack of hope that things can change, because they can, we just need to put the pressure on!
Jill’s book LGBTQ+ Revolution 2.0A Celebratory Collection of LGBTQ+ Narratives
can be purchased here.