YouTube Automatically Banned a Sex Tech Conference

YouTube's algorithm banned the conference from the platform, even though it wasn't in violation of any restrictions

youtube women of sex tech
The Women of Sex Tech conference almost didn't happen, thanks to YouTube.
Mateusz Slodkowski/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
By Kayla Kibbe / May 8, 2020 1:18 pm

The Women of Sex Tech conference went virtual for the first time in its five-year history last weekend, no thanks to YouTube.

The platform’s automated moderation controls automatically banned the sex tech conference the night before the event was supposed to go live, despite not being in violation of any of YouTube’s sexual content regulations. Women of Sex Tech president Alison Falk said the stream was cut off after four minutes during a test run Friday night. “I was so confused, I thought it had to be a glitch considering there was no mention of sex or adult content at that time,” she told Vice.

A YouTube rep told the Daily Dot the automatic ban was the result of the platform’s increased dependence on automated algorithms instead of human moderators in response to the coronavirus pandemic. “We know that this may result in some videos being removed that do not violate our policies, but this allows us to continue to act quickly and protect our ecosystem,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

The conference was able to continue as scheduled Saturday after Falk and her team were forced to drop “a couple hundred dollars ” to host the show on Crowdcast instead.

While YouTube’s sexual content policies include many restrictions against content “meant to be sexually gratifying” (god forbid), no part of the five-hour conference included any content that violated any of those restrictions. The incident, as Vice noted, is yet another instance of tech companies silencing sex education and sexual speech online and perpetuating a harmful pattern of censorship that routinely threatens sexual expression of all kinds across various internet platforms.

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