Bria & Chrissy’s battle with YouTube is gaining momentum
YouTube stars Bria & Chrissy are suing YouTube for discrimination, deceptive business practices and unlawful restraint of speech, and their case has gained some additional support.
12 people have now joined the class action being led by Bria & Chrissy. The Guardian reports that the most recent additions to the lawsuit include Saturday Night Live associate producer Greg Scarnici, independent film-maker Sal Bardo, and Stephanie Frosch, a YouTuber with nearly 400,000 subscribers.
The complainants allege that the algorithm YouTube, and its parent company Google, uses to promote, censor and pair advertising with videos is discriminating against LGBTQ content just because it is made by and for LGBTQ people.
The complaint alleges that YouTube is restricting their content and effectively trying to push them off the platform, as well as retaliating against the original plaintiffs after the lawsuit was first filed in August.
Online platforms depend on algorithms to police and monetize the vast quantity of content uploaded every day. As the case against YouTube gathers momentum, it raises fundamental questions about the biases that are built into supposedly neutral software, and the possibility that these could result in wholesale discrimination against entire communities.
YouTube and Google have yet to respond to the complaint. The first court hearing is due to take place in December.
Who are Bria & Chrissy?
The couple have been together since 2011 and were married in 2018. They have quickly become a YouTube power-couple.
“Age restriction means we can’t reach the young women who look up to us, who need us as a sense of community and support…” Chrissy told The Guardian. “We’re not able to be there and give that to them. When I think about YouTube shutting down our content, it gets me all fired up because they are literally having an impact on someone living another day.”
“I think YouTube are scared that advertisers will leave and, because they think LGBT is controversial, they are trying to nip it in the bud..” added Bria.
Complaints that YouTube is censoring queer people – and failing to protect them from homophobic abuse – is not a new thing, but the move by some of the platforms biggest queer stars to mount a legal challenge takes things to the next level.
“Our viewership has taken an insane hit…” Bria told the Guardian. “Before the suit, we were bringing in around 200,000 views a day. Now we are at around 50,000. I’m not sure what they are doing behind the scenes, but we’re getting tons of viewers saying they were automatically unsubscribed from our channel or that they just don’t get notifications.”
“I’ve always wanted to be someone who stood up to the bully…” said Chrissy. “We are not going to let a corporate predator silence our ability to make a difference to the people who gave us this platform in the first place.”
Who is Stephanie Frosch?
Frosch specialises in vlogs aimed at an audience of teenage girls who are exploring their sexuality, with videos on how to come out to your family, and what to do if you have a crush on your best friend.
Frosch claims YouTube’s algorithm demonetizes and age-restricts her videos, even when they feature no swearing, nudity or discussion about sex.
Who is Sal Bardo?
Sal Bardo’s video It Gets Better, made as part of a suicide prevention campaign among young LGBTQ people, was restricted and therefore cannot be viewed by its intended audience.
Bardo wrote last year that “unless you create makeup tutorials or supercuts of cats napping, you’re no longer permitted to earn revenue on YouTube. And if you’re a queer creator who happens to make those kinds of videos, you may not make any money either.” Despite YouTube’s assurances that they would fix the issues in the algorithm, Bardo’s entire channel was demonitized for the month of September.
Who are the other plaintiffs in the lawsuit against YouTube?
Amp Somers runs a kink-friendly sex education YouTube channel. While some of his content is not suitable for under-18s, Somers claims YouTube has placed a blanket age-restriction on even his most harmless content, including a video of him fully clothed, drinking tea. “Since the lawsuit, it’s only getting worse for us,” Somers told the Guardian. “I’ve spoken to many creators who have the same problems but don’t want to get involved because they fear retaliation from YouTube. I want a working platform where I don’t have to guess if I should stay on it or not. There’s no transparency.”
Chris Knight and his husband Celso Dulay were the first plaintiffs in the case. They decided to take legal action after their request to pay to promote a Christmas special of GNews, their online news show for the LGBTQ community, was immediately rejected by YouTube’s algorithm. When they finally managed to speak to a manager at a YouTube call centre who reviewed the algorithm’s decision, they were told their content was not suitable for promotion “because of the gay thing”. The recording they made of the phone call is a key piece of evidence in the case.
“We filed the lawsuit because we want systemic change…” Dulay told the Guardian. “If this is your model, be honest with it, so that we all know to leave. But if you’re still operating under the guise of the original mission statement and ethos of YouTube, then fix your algorithm.”